I, like most people, don't tend to use sick days at work. I am fortunate in that I don't regularly get ill and have never been struck down by a heinous illness. It is with this good fortune that I am able to say I haven't had a day off sick in my two years at Sellick Partnership. In the thick of winter when everyone gets colds and flu, I think most people just 'press on' and cope. I've had my fair share of heavy colds but being off sick just never really occurs to me and I never really feel like I'm ill enough to justify it. However, recently something has occurred to make me question this approach.
I have a twin sister and she has a very similar work ethic to being off sick and, like me, is lucky in that she's not often ill. However, about 4 weeks ago she was struck with quite a bad cold and didn't feel good. She continued at work for the 7-10 days that this lasted (and she commutes on a very busy train every day) and didn't think much of it. After the cold disappeared she had about 4 days of respite before it returned with a vengeance. She was ill. This wasn't just a sniffle, this was a full-blown chest cold, she sounded and felt awful; she continued to go to work. Some colleagues told her to see a doctor but she had the same thoughts I did - a doctor can't do anything for a common cold.
After another 7-10 days the cold cleared up and she felt better and pleased that she'd powered through and been committed to work. Over last weekend, however, she felt a little out of sorts again and had quite bad, what we assumed to be, 'prickly heat'. So she went to the pharmacy for some cream only to be sent straight to the doctor who diagnosed shingles. She has now (grudgingly) had four days off work. Shingles is the return of the chickenpox virus in adults caused when the immune system is down through stress and being 'generally run down'. In the end, her determination to work through illness has only caused her to be forced to take time off. If she had taken just one day off to recuperate with her cold, she probably wouldn't now have shingles. I think this is worth bearing in mind next time you think "Oh, I'll be fine"!