Monday, October 11, 2010

Not exactly rocket science

Every now and then I read one of those "common sense" articles masquerading as news, and find them either amusing, or exasperating, or both. This one was typical:

But I know that can be easier said than done, especially when you’re on deadline or worried about job security (and who isn’t these days?). Plus, how can you tell if you are contagious, or whether going back to work will ultimately put you of commission even longer? So SELF went to the experts to find out when you should cry uncle and use one (or more) of your sick days. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, hunker down on the couch, dial up your favorite daytime TV show—and feel better soon!

You have a fever over 100 degrees. It could be the flu, which usually triggers a fever of 101 or 102 degrees. The flu comes on superfast, even overnight, and you often don’t see it coming—bad news for your coworkers and loved ones, because you can pass along the virus a full day before you have any symptoms. But even after the body aches and fatigue set in, you’re still contagious for a few more days, so stay in bed until your fever breaks. You’ll be too exhausted (and probably nauseous) to get anything done anyway, so why push it?

You’re a sneezing, runny-nosed mess (and it’s not allergies). The first few days after cold symptoms start is when you’re most likely to spread the bug. If you go in to work feeling under the weather, you could infect seven other people, research from the University of Arizona in Tucson finds. Quarantine yourself the first day or two, when you’re the dribbliest. And remember, while over-the-counter cold meds can make you feel functional during those first few days, you’re still sick, so don’t be tricked into overexerting yourself.

Read the rest here, but I'll go ahead and tell you: it's not exactly rocket science OR breaking news to learn that you ought to stay home when you're vomiting or can't walk, for example. The sad thing, though, is that in the comments below the piece a lot of people who don't have any sick leave and who will be fired for taking off a day of work chime in. While we're talking about health care in America, how about we consider the problem of low-wage workers being threatened with job loss for missing work when they are seriously ill?

Confession time: I've been sick since last Tuesday, which probably explains the higher level of muddle-headed thinking you may have noticed on this blog recently. It's nothing horrible--just one of those typical nasty cold virus things that are so common in the fall. Since I was running a low-grade fever on and off and coughing like a plague victim, I did stay home from Mass yesterday. I mention that only to remind my fellow Catholics that if anything on that list of "Five Times You Shouldn't Go to Work" is present on a Sunday morning, you might at least want to consider staying home from Mass--despite a common belief otherwise, it is not wimpy or sissy or liberal Vatican II namby-pamby felt bannerism to stay at home when you feel ill, or might make others sick, or both. If you do insist on going to Sunday Mass while sick, please at least read this "permapost" from Jimmy Akin which has some helpful suggestions.

In other words, use the same common sense you'd use to figure out if you should go to work or not to determine whether you should go to Mass or not; if you have a chronic or recurring illness, you might check with your pastor--but otherwise, it's not, as I said before, rocket science to figure out when you're too sick to be present at Mass.


priest's wife said...

sorry you are so sick- hasn't happened to us yet!

Barbara C. said...

The same goes for taking sick children to a well child's activity unless absolutely unavoidable. Or family functions.

Red Cardigan said...

Barbara: absolutely!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Amen sister, amen!!!

My last job, where I briefly served as union shop steward, I discovered that most employers don't really care that your son had to be hospitalized twice in one month, they only care that you were absent (albeit having called in) twice in one month. They don't care that you had the flu, they only care that all their routes weren't covered -- and they certainly wouldn't think of having enough stand-by drivers to handle such a preditable occurrence.

It's not really even good for business. Drivers with the flu are more likely to lose control of a vehicle. Employees who come to work with contagious illnesses are likely to infect other employees. That either promotes more absenteeism, or, sharply lower productivity if all these sick workers continue to come to work.

I know any good thing can and will be abused. Reasonable measures to limit abuse are appropriate. Ignoring that these are human beings being employed is not appropriate.

The market was made for man, not man for the market. (I know, I've said that before. I never tire of repeating it.)

NancyP said...

Thank you for the timely reminder. We lived for two years in a rural parish with a very tiny, mostly elderly congregation. We stayed home from Mass if we had bad coughs, honestly...because we knew we could pass germs to people who might be immuno-compromised - and who would have to rely on volunteer help to get to the hospital in the next county, an hour away by car. Now, in our suburban parish of 2000 families, we have less-stringent standards, but we still stay home from Mass if we feel we're more than minimally contagious.

The whole stay-home-from-work thing is a double-edged sword. You're told to stay home, but when you do, it's not a good thing. Perhaps more employers should read up on the 1918 influenza epidemic...

eulogos said...

One of the worst cases of this is nurses in the hospital. The hospitals run chronically short staffed to save money. Nurses can't even take their contractual vacation time unless they can find someone to work their shifts for them, which means that people who are supposed to be working part time work full time out of a sense of obligation to their coworkers, and aren't getting full time benefits; and the hospital takes advantage of this, hiring only for the part time position when they know the person will probably wind up working full time. To cover sick calls sometimes they have a call in list; nurses have to sign up to be available to work a shift or half a shift; they don't get paid anything for having to be in reach of the phone and ready to come in up to an hour into the shift. If more than one person calls in, or if no one signed up for that on-call slot, the floor will just run short, which might mean that a day nurse will have 8 or ten patients instead of 6, and an evening nurse 10 or 12 instead of 8. With today's high inpatient acuities (how sick the patients are and how much attention they need) this is a really high patient load. So the pressure not to call in sick is immense, from both administration and coworkers.
The hospital of course will SAY they don't want you to call in sick, but if you do so twice in a six month period you get a warning in your file. What they are saying is, "Don't BE sick, and if you are, make sure you don't let us or the patients know it."

My husband worked for years in restaurants where there are never any paid sick days. And if someone on the low end of the scale, like a potwasher, is out for two or three days he will be fired and it doesn't matter what was wrong with him or what happened to him, that's his problem; he is paid as long as he shows up and is useful, that's all.

I've seen teachers writing that parents 'weren't interested enough' or 'wouldn't take the time to' come to conferences and open houses, when the real case was that they couldn't get off from work. We put people in this situation when we ask them to take their children to disability exams for their SSI claims and reviews. Take your kid to the exam, or we will deny his claim/cut off the benefits he is already receiving.
But I can't get off from work! Well you have to decide what is most important to you.

It is tough to be poor and on the lower rungs of the economic strata. The rules are very different down there.

Susan Peterson