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How Soon Can I Go Back to Work After Stomach Flu?

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If you have a stomach virus and are deciding whether to stay home or tough it out at work, these tips can guide you through what to do.

Can I spread the virus to my co-workers?

A number of viruses can cause gastrointestinal distress. Symptoms of distress can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Viruses that cause these ailments can spread quite easily, which is important to consider when determining whether you can safely return to work. People can get the infection by touching someone who is infected, touching a surface with the virus on it, or eating foods and/or drinking liquids with the virus in them.

Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is the best way to prevent infection, or if you are already sick, to keep the virus from spreading. Disinfecting contaminated surfaces right away with a bleach solution and allowing the surface to completely air dry could prevent further spread if you have developed these symptoms. If it does not seem possible to take these measures while in the workplace, you may need to delay your return to work.

How long should you stay home and why?

At the onset of symptoms, staying home may be best because of how contagious stomach viruses can be. In addition, these symptoms can often be difficult to manage in a busy workplace (frequent trips to the bathroom, staying hydrated, etc).

The stomach viruses most common in adults, like norovirus, can stick around and be spread for a few days even after you feel better, so in an ideal world, the best thing to do would be to stay home for at least 24 hours after your symptoms have completely resolved. This precaution is especially beneficial if you work in a food service or healthcare industry where close and shared contact with food, objects and other people occurs frequently. For many, there is a lot of pressure to return to work quickly but remember that you could be helping not only yourself but those who you work closely with by remaining home until you are no longer contagious.

Please contact your physician if you develop any signs of dehydration or if symptoms of the stomach virus last longer than a few days.

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