Sick Etiquette

Sick man at work
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When it comes to getting sick, no one is completely immune. It's difficult to avoid spreading germs all the time, but there are some things you can do to minimize causing someone else the same discomfort you're having to deal with.

Whether you have what is called a "common cold," the flu, or some other virus, you need to do whatever it takes to prevent spreading your sickness to others. This includes family members, coworkers, and especially anyone who is elderly and may wind up with complications from the virus. Even if you feel terrible, you still need to show respect for others.


You might be someone who feels that you're essential at the office, and you're probably correct. However, when you have a contagious condition, you are putting other people's health at risk. And to top it off, your own condition might even worsen if you don't take care of yourself. Most employers provide sick days or personal days off, so use them.

Since many offices use recycled air, the germs flow freely around everyone in their cubicles or open office spaces. If you have your own private office, going into the office isn't as bad, but you'll still be in contact with others. Keep your hands clean by washing them often and using sanitizer or disinfectant wipes after coughing, sneezing, or even just touching your nose. Expand your personal space and let others know you might be contagious.

When you're sick, you won't be as productive as you are when you are well. You're more likely to make mistakes, and your judgment will be off during those times when you have a fever. You owe it to your boss, coworkers, and company to do your best work, so take care of yourself at home and come back when you can give the company what they are paying you to do.


As soon as you know that you are coming down with an illness, take a survey of your calendar and obligations and see what you can reschedule. Your hairdresser, nail technician, or dentist will appreciate your consideration. If you're scheduled to have lunch with friends or business associates, let them know of your illness and ask if they can get together the following week.

Don't wait until the last minute to call. Service people will appreciate the opportunity to fill your time slot with someone else since they generally only get paid when they are working.Your friends will like having advance notice so they can make other plans.


As soon as you see that your child is ill, begin figuring out how to make arrangements to keep him or her home from school. If the child is in day care, you have probably already made alternate arrangements for sick days. Remember that this is important for school-aged children as well.

When your child attends school with a fever or runny nose and cough, the other children will be susceptible to whatever bug your child is carrying. They in turn will return home as carriers of this illness, give it to their families, and the cycle of illness will continue. This is true for sports practices and other children's gatherings. 


If one person brings home a virus, and the rest of you start to get the sniffles the next day, keep the family at home to avoid spreading it to others. One or two days of rest may be all it takes to recover. Many viruses are only contagious during the initial stages or when you have a fever. 

Avoiding Sickness

If someone else is sick at home, work, or school, avoid that person throughout his or her illness. You don't have to be rude, but you can say that you can't afford to catch whatever the other person has. If contact is unavoidable, wash your hands immediately afterward and wipe down all equipment, door handles, and anything else the person touches with disinfectant wipes or cleaner.

When your children get sick, it's more difficult to avoid them since a parent's touch often comforts and soothes them. Don't withhold your affection, but do whatever you can to avoid contact with your face afterward.

Other Considerations

There may be times when you have to go out while you are sick. If that's the case, avoid going to a hospital or nursing home where people's immune systems may be weakened by other conditions. Don't expose your germs to pregnant women, babies, or the elderly.

Getting sick is an inconvenience to you and everyone around you. Having good manners means being considerate and doing everything you can to prevent spreading your germs. 


Edited by Debby Mayne