Are You ‘That Guy’ When You Have the Flu?

A recent survey found that two-thirds of people admit to being “That Guy” who continues to go about daily activities despite feeling under the weather.

She's totally That Guy.

Full disclosure: I’m sitting in my home office as I tap out this blog post. My throat felt scratchy earlier this week, and by yesterday afternoon, I was all but a walking zombie. So this morning when I woke up to a massive sinus headache, a nose that couldn’t be more clogged, and a back that felt bruised it was so achy, I decided to save my coworkers from my germs (magnanimous, aren’t I?) and work from home.

Today, I am not That Guy. But yesterday? Yup, I totally was. (I apologize to my coworkers and fellow passengers on the 48 bus for all the sneezing.)

A new survey on flu etiquette describes “That Guy” as the person who continues to go to work, or parties, or happy hour, or church—any public place besides the doctor’s office, really—despite showing symptoms of the flu. The survey found that while 81 percent agree that people with the flu should stay home, two-thirds (64 percent) admit to being That Guy and carrying on with daily activities—and spreading germs while they’re at it—as if they’re perfectly healthy.

Only a third of respondents say they call their doctor when experiencing flu-like symptoms (count me among the majority who doesn’t seek medical attention—whoopsie), even though the flu is super contagious and accounts for thousands of deaths every year. And only four out of 10 Americans say they feel comfortable telling That Guy (a.k.a. me) to stay away when he’s sick. I guess my husband is one of those four Americans—he all but barred me from going to the office this morning.

The That Guy survey, conducted last fall, is part of a partnership between the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Emily Post Institute, who’ve teamed up to teach people proper flu etiquette. Among their (somewhat obvious) tips:

• If you’re at work and you feel sick, tell your boss you have to go to the doctor. “Just let him or her know, ‘I don’t feel well—I need to see a doctor. I think I might have the flu.’ Better to have others pitch in while you’re gone than risk others on your team becoming sick.”

• If you have a social engagement, cancel it. “Normally it would be rude to cancel on a dinner party or big event at the last minute, but if you’re sick, call with your regrets and instead, go see your doctor.”

• Keep hand sanitizer, well, handy. “If you end up with a cougher or sneezer next to you, just ask them to protect others by offering a tissue or spritz of alcohol-based sanitizer.”

• If you’re traveling on an airplane or train and the person next to you is sick, speak up. “It’s tough to point out someone’s behavior mid-flight with hours left to go. However, flu is highly contagious. If there’s no other seat available, consider saying, ‘I can see you’re not feeling well—would you mind covering your mouth when you cough? Thanks.’ Most people when prompted are eager to show good manners and do the right thing.”

Check out all of the Emily Post-approved tips here [PDF]. In the meantime, I’m off to sanitize this computer mouse with a gallon of Lysol. It’s the least I can do.