Authored by Revere Health

The Flu: When Is It Safe To Go Back To Work?

June 28, 2018 | Family Medicine

For those with the flu, staying home from work is important for multiple reasons. Not only do you need some time to hydrate, medicate and otherwise heal yourself, you keep others safe from the spread of this infectious condition.

When is it safe to return to work after dealing with the flu? Let’s go over everything you need to keep in mind.

Spreading Symptoms

The flu spreads through the respiratory system, mainly through someone who is infected coughing or sneezing within three feet of someone who isn’t. It can also be spread through touching objects or surfaces.

The incubation period for the seasonal version of the flu averages two days, but can range between one and four. People are generally infectious with flu symptoms depending on certain factors:

  • Healthy adults: Infectious from the day before symptoms show up through 5-7 days after
  • Children: Infectious for 10 or more days after symptoms show up
  • Severe cases: For people with compromised immune systems, the infectious state may last weeks or even months in some cases

Return to Work Criteria

Some basic criteria that generally must be met before returning to work in most workplaces include the following, each of which must be present:

  • Five or more days since symptoms began
  • No fever symptoms for 24 hours or longer
  • Improving cough

Here are some other general questions you can ask that will give good indicators of your health status – these can be beneficial for you returning to work, but also for sending kids in the home back to school and similar areas. These include:

  • Am I still regularly coughing or sneezing? This is the primary method of spreading the disease, so you should avoid contact if this is still the case.
  • Do I still feel sick? In many cases, the body tells us when it’s fully recovered. If it’s not telling you that, take another day to make sure.

If you deem you’re healthy enough to return to work or send kids back to school, make sure healthy practices like hand-washing and cough etiquette are still being observed.

Influenza Pandemic Prevention

Each year’s version of the influenza virus is different – health experts are never exactly sure how vital information like incubation and contagious periods, transmission and others will compare to previous seasons. For this reason, be diligent about public health recommendations during influenza season or a pandemic – this applies to both employees and employers alike.

Your doctor can offer further recommendations on returning to work following dealing with influenza.


Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages, and committed to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life.




“When Is It Safe to Go Back to Work After the Flu?” WebMD.

“Returning to work after influenza illnesses.” King County Public Health.

“Flu.” MedlinePlus.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.