Another reason to stay home if you're sick

courtesy flickr user William Brawley http://www.flickr.com/photos/williambrawley/

Why do we do this? Why do we insist on coming to work when we're coughing, achy, got a runny nose and wondering when the fever is going to kick in? New research confirms what you probably know is the right thing but refuse to do: Just stay in bed.

Those who do drag themselves in sick probably think their bosses will notice their dedication and consider them hard workers. But new research from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, shows that our bosses shouldn't be too impressed. The study was supported by Afexa Life Sciences, the makers of a cold and flu treatment.

The researchers looked at the results of more than 80 studies, representing the work of more than 300 researchers at more than 100 universities and institutions.

The results? Stay home. Yes, 83 percent of Americans say they will show up to work even if they have flu-like symptoms. But the researchers say the loss in productivity from a worker who shows up sick -- the working wounded, as it were -- is twice the productivity loss that they experience when a worker stays home. After all, those who come in sick don't get as much done as they think they will, and quite often infect their colleagues.

The researchers also found that:

1. One-third of Canadians report a sore throat, cold or flu in any given month. Symptoms are more common in women than in men.

2. Women are more likely to go see a doctor than men are.

3. One-fifth of people ignore their symptoms altogether

4. Cold remedies and prescription antibiotics don't do much good. The researchers found that, for the most part, these remedies neither "ameliorate symptoms nor change the course of illness."

And while the study found that co-workers do frequently pass their illnesses along to each other, school-aged kids are much more active in spreading disease. The Queens researchers say school-aged children "have been shown to introduce rhinovirus [the primary cause of the common cold] infections into their families three times more often than working adults."

SDI, a research agency that tracks colds and flu in North America found an annual spike in colds and flu within the first two weeks of students' return to school each fall.

Do you drag yourself in to work even when you're sick? Why?

More on MoneyWatch

-- Is your employee sick--or taking a "mental health" day?
-- Time versus money: What we really want

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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.

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