‘It’s just allergies’: 71% of adults think it’s rude to come into the office when sick

NEW YORK — Ignorance is bliss, right? More than one in four Americans believe they can will their sickness away, according to new research. A poll of 2,000 Americans revealed that until they have cold sweats or chills (48%), a fever (46%) or see green snot (21%), they won’t acknowledge they’re sick. 

Despite other tell-tale signs such as body aches (46%) or a juicy cough (19%), it takes Americans an average of two days of symptoms before admitting they may be unwell. 

Almost three in five (59%) respondents are guilty of using the “it’s just allergies” excuse at least some of the time, though only 20 percent are likely to believe that line from someone else. 

Commonly ignored symptoms

But if they were to wake up tomorrow with a sore throat, one-third (34%) would attribute it to allergies, compared to 16 percent who would consider themselves sick — another 14 percent would blame the weather.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Mucinex, results showed that the average person gets sick two times per year, though 37 percent tend to ignore their symptoms at least one of those times.  Most commonly respondents ignore a runny nose (45%), but they also tend to brush off a cough (33%), headache (29%) or body aches (26%).

And when those symptoms persist, the average respondent comes to terms with their sickness after two days. 

Sickness in the office

But how do people approach that first day feeling under the weather? More than one-third (36%) are more likely to carry on and work, rather than take a sick day (25%). Though concerns over losing a day of pay (31%) or work piling up (22%) tend to force respondents’ hands, 37 percent believe that working takes their mind off being sick. 

However, healthy coworkers tend to disagree. Almost three-quarters (71%) of respondents believe that it is rude to come to work when you’re sick. 

“We want to remind people that taking care of their health should always be a top priority, and that includes taking the time to rest and recover when necessary,” says marketing director of Mucinex, Albert So, in a statement. “It’s important to understand your body and your symptoms so you can choose the right medication to address your needs.”

Symptoms that leave respondents down for the count include fever (56%), general weakness (39%) and stomachs (26%). Others succumb to body aches (37%) and headaches (30%), leaving them likely to bow out of certain activities. 

But when FOMO wins, respondents tend to power through their symptoms for events such as funerals (35%), their own wedding (34%) or a vacation (34%). Some respondents aren’t willing to disappoint their loved ones and will persist for school pick up and drop off (24%) or someone else’s wedding (16%). 

“It’s understandable that people may feel pressure to keep working or attend important events when they’re feeling sick, but everyone has their own pace of healing,” adds So. “Staying home and taking care of yourself with the right symptom relief can actually be more productive in the long run. Don’t ignore your body’s warning signs.” 

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Mucinex between April 14 and April 19, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR). 

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About the Author

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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  1. Almost everything of importance was done by someone who wasn’t feeling well at the time.
    Primarily because because anxiety and stress makes on feel ‘unwell’.

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