When Can I Return to Work After Having COVID?

As an Occupational Therapist, I have encountered many patients struggling with the question of when they can return to work after battling COVID-19. With the pandemic still lingering, and the number of cases still increasing, it is crucial to understand the recovery process from COVID-19 and how it affects your ability to return to work. In this article, we will explore the typical recovery timeframes, factors that may delay your return to work, and the guidelines provided by health organizations. We will also discuss the considerations employers should make while ensuring a safe return for their employees. If you’re looking to return to work after COVID-19, this article is for you. Let’s dive in.

Understanding the Recovery Process

What Happens to Your Body During COVID?

COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, attacks the respiratory system. The virus is highly contagious, and symptoms can range from very mild (or no symptoms at all) to severe. Symptoms typically appear between 2-14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough, fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, COVID-19 can lead to respiratory failure, pneumonia, and even death.

Typical Recovery Timeframes for Mild Cases of COVID

The recovery process for COVID-19 varies from person to person. For those with mild cases, recovery can take as little as a few days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with mild symptoms are generally considered “recovered” if they have been asymptomatic or have not developed new symptoms for at least 7 days. However, some individuals may be contagious for up to 10 days.

Factors That Delay Recovery and When to Seek Medical Help

Certain factors can contribute to a slower recovery from COVID-19. For example, those who experience severe symptoms or complications may take several weeks to recover. Additionally, some individuals may develop long-term health problems as a result of COVID-19.

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If you are concerned about your recovery process or experience any new or worsening symptoms, it is important to seek medical help. Symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or bluish lips or face can indicate an emergency and require immediate medical attention.

It is important to note that getting a positive result on a COVID-19 test even after recovery (known as “viral shedding”) does not indicate ongoing illness or the need for isolation. Additionally, you do not need a medical certificate or negative test result to return to work after COVID-19.

In summary, the recovery process from COVID-19 varies depending on the severity of the illness and individual factors. If you experience symptoms or have concerns about your recovery, seek medical attention.

Guidance from Health Organizations

What the CDC says about Returning to Work after COVID

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance for individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are ready to return to work. According to the CDC, the length of COVID-19 infection varies from person to person. Most individuals recover within a few days; however, some individuals may take weeks to recover from a more severe infection.

It is important to note that individuals with COVID-19 can be contagious from 48 hours before they begin to experience symptoms or, in high-risk environments, up to 72 hours before symptom onset. Additionally, those with mild disease are generally considered recovered after seven days if they have been asymptomatic or have not developed any new symptoms during that time. However, some individuals may remain contagious for up to ten days. Furthermore, some people may develop long-term health problems caused by COVID-19.

If someone has had COVID-19 and is ready to return to work, they should speak with their employer as soon as possible. Individuals should discuss the following with their employer:

  • How and when they will return, or if they need a gradual return
  • Any concerns they may have about returning to work
  • How the employer is keeping the workplace safe
  • Whether an occupational health assessment might help

Currently, there is no legally required duration for someone with COVID-19 to stay out of work. Employers should follow government guidance for England, Scotland, or Wales and discuss and agree on when it is safe for employees to return.

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Guidelines from the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides guidance on returning to work after COVID-19. The WHO states that individuals can leave isolation if their acute respiratory symptoms have subsided substantially, and if they have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen. If symptoms persist after seven days, individuals should stay home until symptoms disappear and seek medical attention if they are unsure.

It is unnecessary to have a negative test to leave isolation, as individuals may continue to test positive for some time after recovering from COVID-19. Those with COVID-19 should avoid entering high-risk areas until at least 7 days after a positive result and no longer experiencing symptoms.

Queensland Health advises staying home until acute respiratory symptoms have subsided and being without fever for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school. If someone does return within seven days of a positive result, they should follow certain measures, such as wearing a mask indoors and avoiding contact with high-risk individuals.

After leaving isolation, individuals should wait at least 35 days before being tested for COVID-19 to avoid a possible positive result due to viral shedding. Finally, even after having COVID-19, individuals should still get vaccinated for additional protection. It is recommended to wait at least six months after recovery before getting the vaccine.

In conclusion, there is no set time frame for an individual to return to work after having COVID-19. It is essential to follow guidance from health organizations such as the CDC and the WHO and speak with one’s employer to discuss a plan for returning to work safely. Employers should ensure that they are taking precautions to keep the work environment safe for their employees.

Employer Considerations When Returning to Work After COVID

Communication With Your Employer About Your Recovery

Clear communication, positive test result, symptoms, timeline, support, accommodations, flexible return-to-work plan, reduced work schedule, work from home arrangements.

Returning to Work Safely: Understanding Your Rights and Your Employer’s Responsibilities

Safe work environment, healthy workplace, social distancing measures, cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment (PPE), rights, responsibilities, guidelines, protocols, relevant information, privacy rights.

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In conclusion, returning to work after having COVID-19 presents new challenges for both employers and employees. It is important to communicate effectively, offer support and accommodations, and create a safe and healthy work environment. Both employers and employees need to understand their rights and responsibilities, follow relevant guidelines and protocols, and protect privacy rights.In conclusion, returning to work after having COVID requires a thorough understanding of the recovery process and guidance from health organizations as well as considerations from your employer. Knowing what happens to your body during COVID, typical recovery timeframes for mild cases, factors that delay recovery, and when to seek medical help is critical. It’s also important to follow guidelines from organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization, communicate with your employer about your recovery, and understand your rights and their responsibilities for returning to work safely. For more information and resources, be sure to check out other articles on my blog, I Can Find It Out.

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