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What's A Sick Day?

 It used to be more common for people to stay at home when they got sick. But in today's high-pressured offices, you'll find a lot of people who do not. On The Early Show, CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay answered questions about how sick is too sick to work.

When should you stay home?

If you have a bad case of the flu, you'll know about it, and you won't be coming into work. You'll be in bed for two or three days. Even a cold can be severe enough to make life miserable.

A general rule of thumb: If you feel too sick to work, you probably are. And you should consider seeing a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

Use Your Own Phone
Throw Used Tissues Away
Don't Shake Hands
Tell People You're Sick

What about the hard workers out there who won't call in sick unless they're practically on their death bed?

We all know these people, or we are these people. They're the ones who drag around a lot longer than everybody else with that nagging cough or sinusitis because they can't shake it.

There's a good reason for that: stress. Stress itself can depress your immune system and make you more susceptible to a cold, and make it harder to a recover from one.

If you have a bad cold, you could probably come into work. But you may be setting yourself up for a protracted recovery or even getting a super infection on top of it. If you can rest a day or two, in the long run you might actually save yourself some time at work because you'll be over the illness quicker.

What can you do to protect yourself from being infected by co-workers who come to work sick?

One can become really neurotic about this - wearing masks and other protective gear. But washing your hands to prevent picking up germs is really the best way to avoid getting sick. It sounds phobic, but do be careful that, when you touch something, you don't then touch your face. That's how colds are transmitted: usually hand to face.

Flu is also passed through aerosolized droplets in a sneeze or cough. If you really want to go whole hog, you can also try wiping phones and doorknobs with a disinfectant.

And remember to be careful what you touch on the way out of the bathroom after you've washed your hands. Roll the paper towl down before you wash your hands. Have your paper ready to go so you don't have touch the dispenser.

When are you contagious and for how long?

Some viruses have an incubation period before symptoms appear, so you don't know when it's being passed along. In fact, with both the flu and the common cold, you are contagious a day or so before you get symptoms. With the flu, you're contagious for a while after you get better.

Of course, once symptoms appear, you are very contagious. So be considerate of your co-workers if you are the one with the cold.

Do anti-bacterial soap and cleaners help?

They do help to kill germs. But there is some controversy about their use because of fears that germs become resistant to them.
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