Do you stay home when you have a coldsore?
October 3, 2008 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Two-pronged question: (1.) How do you get out of work if you wake up with a massive coldsore?; & (2.) Do most people just go to work with a coldsore?

I have only ever seen one other person at work with a coldsore. It didn't look particularly nasty and this person did not have to deal with customers or the public. I couldn't imagine going to work when I have one. They stick around for up to ten days and are painful and humiliating. I work with people/customers so it would suck. I've only ever had one while at school/university so it was no biggie to stay home. What's the norm with the workplace?

Is it expected that you show up? Is it cool to stay home? Can you call your boss and say you're rundown and have a coldsore, or is another excuse expected?

My new p/t job provides sick pay, but you have to provide a medical certificate. Is there any non-dodgy way to say, "I'm sick, but I don't want/need to get paid so I'm not bringing in a med cert?"

I have no other what other people do in this situation because I've never asked!
posted by nomnomnom to Work & Money (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen people at work with them, so I'd assume that most people go to work. If it's not too painful to touch, you may be able to use makeup to cover it up a bit; I've seen people do that as well.

Also, if you're getting them often and/or they're very large and painful, you may want to talk to your doctor about herpes specific anti-viral drugs that can lessen the frequency and severity of outbreaks.
posted by decathecting at 2:09 PM on October 3, 2008

People go to work with them all of the time. While I've never had a coldsore, I've gone to work with giant cyclopean forehead zits, but somehow I was still able to do my job*.

*Not a model or anything else that relies on physical appearance.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:11 PM on October 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

call a clinic and schedule an appointment or drop-in. sounds like you could use some zovirax as well as a medical note.

when you have an appointment frame scheduled, call work and explain your conundrum.

"i won't be able to come in until (x time) because an unexpected medical issue has arisen and i need to drop by a clinic."

good luck and don't kiss anyone anywhere.
posted by LecheFresca at 2:12 PM on October 3, 2008

Don't forget to eat a kiwi!
posted by Aquaman at 2:13 PM on October 3, 2008

I get them about once a year/once every eighteen months. Is that considered often?

I should have mentioned, I have tried using makeup, but the particular place my sore grows is on my top lip, and it really doesn't make it less visible, it just looks like a big sore with lipstick on it (ew!)

Plus, yeah it does hurt and if I've got lipstick there I'm less able to rub the Zovirax cream in.
posted by nomnomnom at 2:13 PM on October 3, 2008

Oh, and PS I don't have a coldsore right now! It's just been ages since I had one and it suddenly occurred to me that I'd hate it if I got one and had to work! So I thought I'd better prepare my plan of action.
posted by nomnomnom at 2:15 PM on October 3, 2008

Does your job involve kissing people? If not, go to work.

Everyone (well, almost) get spots / zits / coldsores / bad hair days or whatever. As long as it doesn't stop you from doing your job, just deal with it.
posted by afx237vi at 2:17 PM on October 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

I get cold sores regularly and have never called in for a cold sore. I've worked in retail at the mall, group homes for kids with behavior disorders, case management, etc. I've never had anyone mention them, not even the kids. I think it's one of those things that people notice, but don't care enough or are not rude enough to comment.

I've taken to carrying around Abreva with me at all times, and I apply it anytime I get that tell tale tingle. Sometimes the cold sore still pops through, but it does decrease the size and length of healing time. I've read recently that Valtrex can be used on an 'as needed' basis to prevent them. Like the Abreva, you have to take it when you first feel the symptoms. I haven't gone as far as asking my doctor about Valtrex, as mine have slowed down over the past few years.

I've noticed that stress and changes in diet will trigger an outbreak for me, ymmv.
posted by wg at 2:18 PM on October 3, 2008

physical and emotional stress triggers and exacerbates cold sores (or any herpes simplex outbreak, for that matter), so try to relax. can you identify any one thing / constellation of circumstances that occurs before an outbreak?

re: coverup - like a zit, the less you touch / mess with a cold sore, the faster it will heal. try mixing the zovirax cream with something tinted (lipstick or foundation) and dabbing it on if you're feeling self-conscious.
posted by LecheFresca at 2:21 PM on October 3, 2008

Just put a plaster on it or something? Or, just, yeah. You should probably go in... with a coldsore, it's probably up to yr manager to decide if it's so obscenely horrible that your customers / clients / coworkers will, having seen it, start weeping and vomiting on themselves in uncontrollable disgust.
posted by so_necessary at 2:30 PM on October 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do you work in food service? It has been my experience that people can get a little bit revolted if the person serving them food has a festering cold sore. Not to say that fact would help you get out of work -- it'll just mean that your customers will make you feel like the crustiest of lepers.

Because, let's not kid ourselves ... if you work in food service, and try to call out because you're shitting blood, you'll probably be pressured to come to work and stay there.

(Everyone else has good points about treating cold sores, but also, take your lysine. That stuff has saved me from the Satan's screaming open wound affliction so many times.)
posted by Coatlicue at 2:57 PM on October 3, 2008

As a boss, I understand if people call out if they've got a bad cold / flu / pneumonia; something contagious; broken or sprained body parts; any other medical conditions that makes the employee uncomfortable or painful to be able to not perform their job.

You call me and tell me you've got a coldsore and can't come in to work? Start looking for another job.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:57 PM on October 3, 2008 [11 favorites]

Consider that you may not specifically recall having seen other people at work with cold sores because they're really quite common and insignificant.
posted by SemiSophos at 3:13 PM on October 3, 2008

Cold sores are contagious only if touched. If you can avoid touching it yourself or to any communal object during the workday, then you should work. If you can't, then you should go get meds and a note.

No matter what, you may want to go get meds for it, anyway. They are painful and show that the virus is active in your system, so taking medicine to limit outbreaks is a good idea. Especially since you're communicable even when you're not having an obvious outbreak.

Please don't put makeup on it. It will slow your healing time and lead to potential infection, making it worse than it already is. And the extended, irritating contact only gives you opportunity to spread the virus into your makeup and anything you use while applying it. And it never looks very convincing.

Apply Abreva to it with a cotton swab after your shower, throughout the day (particularly after eating), and before bed. It will go away faster. Blistex lip ointment works, too, albeit in a slower fashion. Again, use cotton swab to apply.

Get as much sleep as you can and do what you're able to calm down any stress in your life. It might be a good idea to cast your mind back to what was going on your life during other outbreaks so that you can minimise stress factors beforehand.
posted by batmonkey at 3:18 PM on October 3, 2008

nth the zovirax, which is also available and effective as pills. Pre-fill a prescription and have it on hand, for me it cut down on the duration of cold sores from maybe 10 days to about 3, and lessened their intensity. After a few years, maybe coincidentally, I am getting many fewer and now they are almost one-day wonders.

To answer the question, go to work unless you are in a definite likelihood to handle food or touch people.
posted by Rumple at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2008

I get them, too. I carry around Abreva, I use foundation to cover up (if it were on my lip I'd use lipstick) and I use aspirin. I'm not sure if it reduces the inflammation, but even if it doesn't, it does reduce the pain which is one of the things that makes you aware of the swelling and makes you self-conscious. And I drink a glass of water an hour.

The Abreva genuinely helps. The other things make me feel better. I go to work with them; I get them so often I have to.

Also, I get them after big emotional freakouts. Every damn time. So having realized that I apply Abreva based on the big emotional freakout, not the cold sore itself--meaning I don't wait for its arrival. It helps. So if you can figure out causes (having had to wipe your nose constantly due to allergies, big emotional freakouts, whatever) you can use the Abreva to reduce the occurrences.

And don't the Abreva people know it! Seventeen dollars for one of those tiny little tubes! I guess if you're looking for an investment making people feel less deformed is right up there.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2008

At the hospital where I volunteer, volunteers are asked to stay home when they get a cold sore until it has crusted over. I don't get them, so I'm not really sure how clear an instruction that is, but to me it implies that you might have a bit of a leg to stand on in staying home with a doctor's note. I doubt the hospital would tell people to stay home just because something looks icky; they're more worried about the spread of infection. Of course it's a medical setting with volunteers, so they're probably more likely to send people home than your typical office-boss, but I thought I'd chime in. So far I think it's the only official work-related policy anybody has mentioned.
posted by vytae at 4:37 PM on October 3, 2008

In most jobs, people will laugh in your face for calling out sick because your face has a funny bit on it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:45 PM on October 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Outside of a hospital ward or other situation dealing with immuno-compromised people, this would not be an acceptable reason. Indeed, sorry to say so, as the aim is to be helpful, but jenfullmoon is absolutely right - people would laugh in your face or you'd be facing a very uncomfortable interview with your manager/HR about why you stayed off work for what would be (almost universally) regarded as a very poor reason.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:33 PM on October 3, 2008

I asked about cold sores at the student health center at my college and they wrote me a prescription for Valtrex, which I took the next time I had a cold sore. Cut that sucker down pretty darn fast, though full healing still took over a week.
posted by roomwithaview at 6:36 PM on October 3, 2008

I'm a teacher, and I can guarantee that my manager would not be cool with me taking a day off for a cold sore. I get them a couple of times a year, and each time, I use Lysine tablets and Carmex (I swear by them; they have cut back on the outbreak time significantly). My only advice is not share any food or drinks with people while you have an outbreak. Also, try not to get stressed out, and eat as healthy as possible in the meantime. I don't recommend using makeup on a cold sore; just keep Carmex or Abreva or something on it, and leave it alone.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 7:38 PM on October 3, 2008

I have only ever seen one other person at work with a coldsore.

This might be due to makeup, but probably has most to do with the fact that you notice this sort of thing way more often on yourself than on others. Similar to how you probably can't think of all the people with terrible zits you've seen recently, yet can remember every little facial blemish of your own.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:23 PM on October 3, 2008

Off topic, but relevant to the above comment about food service and shitting blood. Most kitchens, at least the respectable and safety-compliant ones would absolutely NOT have a person with diarrhea come into work. That is a health violation that can lead to serious food-borne illnesses.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:59 PM on October 3, 2008

Thanks everyone - The mob has spoken!

I was pretty sure no boss in their right mind would let me use a coldsore as an excuse for taking a sickie, but I was still wondering what other sufferer's did in the situation.

Looks like everyone just grins in bears it!

Do people really not notice coldsores that much though? Mine are pretty big.

I don't work in healthcare or food service so I think my battle plan will be to ask my boss if I would be allowed to perform as many duties w/o public interaction as possible. I'm sure that would be an acceptable thing to ask?

If anyone else is reading this and would like to tell me what they do when they have a coldsore, please add more!
posted by nomnomnom at 11:09 PM on October 3, 2008

Even if you do take a sick day, you don't have to give any excuse. "I'm calling in sick today, I should be back tomorrow." Your boss is not allowed to ask you why you're taking a personal day.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:18 AM on October 4, 2008

There are some very efficient cold sore plasters on the market. A bandage always looks better.
posted by ruelle at 1:51 AM on October 4, 2008

Years ago I shared an office with a woman who was prone to annual cold sore outbreaks. They'd start out with one on her upper lip, but within the next few days would have spread all across her lower face. I'm talking a cold sore beard. It wasn't pleaseant to look at, I must confess, but once she brought in a doctor's note stating she was only contagious if someone physically touched one of her open sores, she was welcomed back to work.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:02 AM on October 4, 2008

People may notice, but cold sores are common enough and everyone knows what they are. Just be glad you don't have to worry about school picture day anymore :)
posted by emd3737 at 10:57 AM on October 4, 2008

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