Can you go to work when you have a cold?


According to current surveys, about 50% of Germans go to work again and again despite illness. But when exactly does it make sense to go to work and when should one rather stay at home? In the end, this always remains an individual decision, but we try to give you a small guide here.

You should not go to work with these symptoms

Whether or not you should go to work with a cold depends very much on how badly the cold has hit you and where you work. In principle, the following applies: anyone who is physically active at work must be more careful than someone sitting at a desk. Physical work should be avoided at all costs, even if you have a slight cold.

The way to work must also be taken into account: If, for example, I need a bicycle and have to ride to work through wind and weather, this probably does not have a positive effect on the cold. However, if the desk at home is the workplace, it is unlikely that the body will overexert itself. But even then, you should consider how efficient you are at all.

A cold usually does not allow you to achieve great powers of concentration or creativity. But no matter where or what you work, there are some symptoms that you should not work with. These include: If you go to work despite the above-mentioned symptoms, you run the risk of serious secondary diseases.

In the worst case, this can lead to heart muscle inflammation or meningitis, for example. Apart from your own health, you should also think of your colleagues’ and customers’ health: People who have a cold are always a danger of infection for healthy people. Especially those who work with children or sick people, for example as teachers, educators or health care workers, should remember that these target groups are particularly easy to infect

  • Fever
  • Pain in the limbs, neck and head
  • Cold and cough with coloured secretion
  • Other symptoms like conjunctivitis or gastrointestinal infection

In principle, one should therefore pay attention to one’s own feeling of illness.

Those who feel extremely ill should not go to work. The most objective symptom that can be easily measured is body temperature. Above 37.5° C, one speaks of a so-called sub-febrile temperature, i.e. a slightly elevated temperature that is not yet a real fever.

Those who feel fit can still go to work with this temperature, those who feel tired and weak should stay at home. From 38.5° C onwards one speaks of a solid fever, at the latest then one should take it easy – even if one still feels fit. Even if severe pain with a cold occurs, it is better to stay in bed.

These typically include headaches or aching limbs, but also severe sore throats that make swallowing very difficult or a painful cough can be an indication of a severe cold. Sometimes there is also severe ear pain, and the hearing sensation in the affected ear may even be reduced. If this pain does not improve or even worsen within a few days, a doctor must be consulted.

Swollen and/or painful lymph nodes in the neck can also indicate a more serious infection, even then it is better to see a doctor than to go to work. Coughing and/or rhinitis almost always occurs when you have a cold. Here you can also judge how severe the cold is from the colour of the secretion: if the cold secretion or coughing sputum is clear, the infection is usually caused purely by viruses; if the colour turns green-yellowish or even purulent or bloody, bacteria have often settled in addition to the viruses. If only a clear rhinitis is present, most doctors consider you to still be fit for work, while coloured secretions are usually further clarified. Going to work is also taboo when other symptoms occur in addition to the cold, such as watery red eyes, as is the case with conjunctivitis, or symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection.