The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Got a holiday gathering bug? When to stay home from work or school

Got a holiday gathering bug? When to stay home from work or school

Some of us shared more than gifts, hellos, and delicious goodies at our holiday gatherings. 

Some of us got the bug that someone else at the party had.  

"We expect a post-holiday surge of illness in early January, due to all of the get-togethers," said Dr. Stephen Flack, a WellSpan family physician. "If you came down with something, take steps to make sure that you don't keep passing those illnesses onto others." 

One of those steps might be to spend a day or two at home. 

You don't want to pass on your illness to someone who is particularly vulnerable, including infants under 6 months of age, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, or folks undergoing chemotherapy treatment. These people are at the greatest risk of developing a severe condition from a cold, flu, or other illness such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.  

You also are doing yourself a favor. Taking time to rest and recuperate also may help you avoid complications or a lengthier illness. 

How do you know when you are too sick to go to work? Or when your child is too sick to go to school? 

Here are several signs that Flack says may indicate you should stay home or keep your child home from school: 

  • A fever of 100.4 degrees or higher. Fevers are often a sign that you are shedding germs to others. Stay home until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 
  • A contagious illness, such as a cold, pink eye, or skin infection. If you have pink eye or a rash, stay at home until your symptoms go away. If you have a cold, stay at home until the symptoms lessen and you are no longer constantly blowing your nose and sneezing. 
  • Persistent coughing. A cough spreads germs. If it does not stop, call your doctor. 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea. Stay at home for 24 hours after the illness passes. 
  • Any type of bad pain. If you can't focus or function, stay at home. Keep an eye on any severe pain such as headache or back pain. Call your doctor if it escalates. 
  • A positive at-home COVID-19 test. Stay home for five days. After that you can leave the house but continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days. 
  • A positive flu test. If you test positive for the flu, early treatments may be available. Stay at home at least four to five days after the symptoms begin or until your symptoms improve. 

Once you are well enough to return to work, or your child is well enough to return to school, be extra vigilant with hand sanitizer and handwashing, Flack advises. Use disinfectant wipes on common or shared work areas. Consider wearing a mask for a few days. 

"Do yourself, your co-workers, and your children's fellow students a favor by removing yourself from shared environments until you are well," he said. "Keep your illness to yourself when you can." 

It's not too late to get a flu shot by going here or a COVID-19 shot by going here. If you got your original COVID-19 series, but not the new bivalent booster, it's time to get the booster. 


If you need medical care, WellSpan offers several options. For non-emergency conditions, Online Urgent Care gives 24/7 access to board-certified physicians from the comfort of home using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Schedule your appointment by visiting