What to do when you are down with the flu, but need to work

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 27, 2013

Yesterday I started to show flu symptoms from one minute to the next. My body was aching and feeling heated up, then cold again, headaches, and a sore throat. While it came abruptly, it did not really interrupt work on that day. I did not feel good, but I decided to work through that as this is what I do for a living.

In situations like these, I wish that I'm not the emperor of my little online realm, but someone working a regular job. If that would be the case, I'd probably call in sick, spend the day in bed and get back to work as soon as the flu is gone.

Things got worse the night, I started to have fever, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, a general weakness and the worst hot and cold body temperature changes of my life.

My grandma died about a week ago and I needed to attend the funeral today no matter what. I also had to work on my sites, respond to emails, post a couple of articles, and be there for emergencies.

Even without the funeral, I knew that I had a tough day ahead. I knew that fever usually meant that staying home was the best option, but for the most part of the day, I was at home as I work from there. So, exposing co-workers was not an issue. That's obviously a major concern, and if you are contagious, you should stay at home to avoid spreading the flu at work or among clients you are in contact with that day.

I'm not a fan of pills and medicine in general, and refuse to take them unless instructed by a doctor to do so. The only exception that I make is when I have headaches. I use Aspirin to get rid of it, usually either by going to bed right after taking it, or showering which also seems to get rid of headaches most of the time.

So, what I'm doing today is the following to get work done.

  • I drink a lot.
  • I'm using a hot-water bag all the time.
  • I rest whenever needed, yes, this can mean sleeping for an hour or two.
  • I try to work whenever the situation improves slightly. I listen to my body and start to work whenever it is possible. This sometimes means interrupting work, going to bed, or taking a bath, before returning to work to continue where I left off.

This usually works pretty well for me, and I made it past the first half of the day.

Please note that this should not be taken as medical advice. This is how I continue to work when I'm sick, and what works for me, may not work for you.

I'm interesting in what you do when you are down with influenza. Do you work? Use a miracle medicine or a trick grandma taught you to get by? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. scyllabub said on March 4, 2013 at 12:33 am

    How warming to see so many friends who wish you well, Martin. Condolences and good wishes from me too. No flu cures or preventions, though ;-)

  2. Doc said on February 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

    My wishes for a speedy recovery. If you have a fever it’s probably Influenza. Tamiflu really does amazing things for that… please ask your Doctor. Needless suffering is… well, needless.

  3. Dave said on February 28, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I hope you get better soon. I rarely write but i read the site often.

    I also was in the same situation except that i work in office for an employer in a big company but i have very strong will and made trough the day and barely anyone noticed as i pushed hard myself to act normally even though it was eating me from inside…

  4. Sukhen Mitra said on February 28, 2013 at 9:13 am

    No point taking unnecessary pain/uneasiness. Don’t hesitate to use a Tylenol (or any paracetamol)..

  5. Mark said on February 28, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I’m usually down for the count if I have the full on flu. My productivity is non-existent. It’s better for me lay on the couch … and better for everyone else. Except for my wife.

  6. SubgeniusD said on February 28, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Never had the flu so can’t help with personal advice. I can offer a bit of advice on supplements though.

    Everything you could possibly want or need to know about Vit D facts and usage


    from security guru Steve Gibson. Nutrition is one of his avocations and he researches the subject like the Assembly Language programmer he is — analytically and methodically.

    I take daily 500mg of Vit C compound (with bioflavonoids), 15 mg zinc compound (with 2 mg copper), 5000 IU D3. Omega 3 fatty acids and acidopholous several times a week. C and zinc _can_ be taken together, there are dozens of C-zinc lozenge compound available for instance.

    I’ve heard the flu vaccine isn’t popular in Europe and that is good. They couldn’t pay me enough to take one. Millions of gullible Americans swallow Big Pharma hype and show up for their shots every year like good little children lol.


    I was genuinely alarmed reading you were down with the flu, like a friend is hurting, not some remote internet entity. Condolences for the passing of your Grandmother and best wishes for speedy recovery.

  7. Ken Saunders said on February 28, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Martin, I’m sincerely sorry for your loss.
    My grandmother passed away in 2006 and she was my favorite person on the planet.

    I don’t know you personally of course, but I do know that you work hard and often and so you really need to take care of yourself for both your physical and mental health. That means taking a break once in a while. You are entitled to do so and you certainty want to avoid getting burned out.

    About the flu, drinking a lot is what I do, eating also helps me (fresh fruits high in vitamins, potassium, B vitamins especially), but above all is getting rest and if possible sleep. There really isn’t much that you can do except wait the flu out and sleeping through it is the best.
    You do have to keep an eye on it so that you don’t develop Pneumonia which can lead to real problems.

    We can all wait for you to get better. Take a break. You deserve it, Watch some movies, sleep, eat, sleep, repeat as needed. :)

    Take care.


    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:16 am

      Thanks feeling much better already.

  8. Lindsay said on February 28, 2013 at 2:31 am

    “I drink a lot.”

    I find scotch cures everything too :)

  9. ghostwind said on February 28, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Gute besserung, Martin!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:09 am

      Danke :)

  10. tinwheeler said on February 28, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Martin, grandparents are wonderful people and I know your grandmother will always be with you. Celebrate her life and not her death. As far as the flu there’s not a thing in the world that will actually help except rest and time. That doesn’t help but it gives some perspective. As a bus driver I was exposed to every kind of crud in the world and just played a game with my self to see if I could muscle through the sickness. So I hope you’re up and at ’em soon. I also have to chuckle as I recall a while back your wanting responses to your blog and well! now you really have them. Best to you & yours.

  11. Wayfarer said on February 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Under the weather? Heat a mugful of milk. Pour it into a double measure of Scotch. Add two tablespoons of honey and stir. Top with a spice sprinkle – I like nutmeg, ‘er indoors likes cinnamon.

    Take it in bed, otherwise you may not reach the bed, Does it work? Who the hell cares – you’ll be out as your head touches the pillow.

  12. Shawn said on February 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Until you start feeling better and up to par best way to keep your site active is just to post some discussion topics this way people will get involved and you’ll have less work to do.

    In my case when I want to flush my system from a parasite I just eat spicy foods the stronger the better and just sweat it out.

    It’s drastic but it works… also the moment I feel the symptoms I avoid dairy products at all costs as they seem to make things worst for me.

    Take care of yourself.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:18 am

      Thanks. After a second night of sweating it out, I feel a lot better.

  13. kittoinc said on February 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Sorry to hear the sad news. Normally, if I am that sick, I would just take it off and work on low-key items. Even without working, there are things to organize, and get in order around the house or maybe work-related.

    Personally, there are couple reasons. When I feel sick, my work is not always the best (less optimal idea, overlook details, etc). Another reason is so I can focus on other things that I might have missed from the regular schedule. Anyways, hope you get better soon.

  14. Transcontinental said on February 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    P.S. Above mentioned ‘bains de siège” had been vulgarized in Europe by a German doctor called Louis Khüne, who wrote a fantastic work on the idea of “the unicity of all diseases”. The book is hard to find.

  15. Transcontinental said on February 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    My condolences for the depart of your grand-mother, Martin.
    Also, of course, return to a tip-top shape concerning flu.

    I know one care which is radical in terms of efficiency, be it headaches, hang-over, fatigue in general, but not always available : sauna. Otherwise, anything that provides abundant transpiration, in this that it helps eliminating the “bas stuff” when this one is not bad enough to require medical care.

    There is also what we call in French the “bains de siège froids” which I’d have difficulty to translate. It’s an old Arab therapy which is about sitting one’s bottom in cold water, frictions to help circulation, and that for say 15 minutes, 2-3 times a day. Hard to explain better.

    Anyway, recovery is on its way. I took good note of what a personal working environment means in terms of assiduity to labor. It is quite a responsibility.

    Take good care.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:26 am

      My bed felt like a leaking waterbed this morning, but I’m feeling a lot better today.

      1. Ken Saunders said on February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

        “My bed felt like a leaking waterbed this morning, but I’m feeling a lot better today”

        I didn’t know that urinary incontinence was associated with the flu.
        Just kidding, I knew what you meant.

        Hey I was watching a show on the Food Network over here and they had a dish that was referred to as German Macaroni and Cheese. I can’t remember the name to look for recipes but I think that it begins with a P.
        Do you know what I’m talking about?

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 9:05 am

        Ken, I’m sorry but I can’t help you with that dish. Macaroni and Cheese is not that of a popular dish here in Germany.

  16. Android said on February 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Hope you feel better, but it seams you are addicted to work, because nothing will happen if you don’t post for a day or two on your site, you have a lots of visitors, so you wont loose revenue, you should go to bed and forget about the site for couple of days , also get people to work for you :)

    Greetings im sorry about your grandma , i know how it feels like :( .

  17. Karl Gephart said on February 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Hope you feel better soon, Martin! Love the material you post here and on Google+! First, I take a flu shot every Fall. Then, if I feel a flu coming on, I take Boiron Oscillococcinum (a homeopathic brand) from Whole Foods store. I buy most of my health stuff there. Next, I alternate Vitamin C with Zinc, about 3 hours apart (they neutralize their benefits if taken together). Each vitamin C dose is 2000mg (2 capsules). Zinc is 50mg. Some people may need to take an antacid because of these two. Finally, I alternate Tylenol and Advil for fever reduction. Obviously, plenty of rest and fluids. The hardest thing for me is not to feel guilty about not getting much work done! LOL! Take care! :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:41 am

      Thanks Karl, feeling better already.

  18. Matias said on February 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    You should take a break and come down here, to get some of the wonderful Brazilian sun we have outside the window! :)

    My condolences about your grandma Martin! Hope your family holds it strong!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:38 am

      Sun would be really great, it is so damn cold here in Germany.

  19. beachbouy said on February 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    The body’s natural inclination is to stay healthy. If you feed it right and do the right things, it is remarkably capable of fighting illness on its own, without pharmaceuticals.

  20. beachbouy said on February 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re an average size person, you should be taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day of your life. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself to help keep the immune system prepared to ward off an invading viruses and illness. It can be particularly effective against colds and flu.

    Two weeks ago, I was at a large consumer show for four days, 700 miles from home, exposed to a lot of people who were handling the equipment in my exhibit… basically exposing me to numerous opportunities to get sick. That Saturday, late afternoon, I felt myself trying to get sick… sore throat, mild aches. But, by that evening, my immune system won the battle and I never succumbed to the illness. I attribute the victory to my vitamin D3 regimen, which is the foundation of my “stay healthy” nutrition program.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:37 am

      Interesting, will do some research on this vitamin.

  21. DanTe said on February 27, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    When you are well, you should probably spend a bit of extra time to write up a few fluff articles. Articles on doing certain things that is generic in the computing world and don’t need to be up-to-date. Than when you’re sick, post the fluff and you’re done.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 28, 2013 at 3:30 am

      I do that whenever I go on a trip so that I do not have to spend a lot of time updating the site. Definitely a good idea.

  22. Eric said on February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Nobody has a job that’s so important that they can’t rest during the flu (or any major illness). If you can’t afford the lost income, then plan your emergency or “sick fund” better, rather than sacrificing your health.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Eric this is not really a question about money, but about not doing anything which I have a hard time doing.

      1. Eric said on February 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        That’s a totally different beast to tackle then!

        Sorry about your Grandmother :(

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        Thanks Eric. I find it difficult to not do anything, as I have been working every day ever since I became a freelance writer, and that dates back to 2005/2006.

  23. RG said on February 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    My condolences Martin.

    Get well soon, rest and fluids and…raw onions, I am not kidding about the last one.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks RG. Tried that once, have to become a lot sicker to try that again ;)

      1. RG said on February 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

        Lol :) how about, rest and fluids and…giveaways ;)

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm

        Preparing my hot milk with honey drink as we speak. Will start to watch Boardwalk Empires when that is done and turn off the PC for the day.

  24. nero said on February 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    First off, my sincerest condolences on the news of your grandmother.

    Funny enough I happen to be in the exact same boat as you are since two days ago. I’m a developer that works from home and two days ago I started having the same symptoms as you and I too happen to resist taking medicine as much as possible.

    My rules in these situations are:
    – There are enough hours in the day, if your body demands sleep at 3pm let it have it. When you wake up you can get back to work
    – Lots of hot beverages, teas with lemon, honey, spearmint.
    – I take shots of hot sauce and chew on garlic if I feel even a hint of anything going on in my sinus, ear, throat or chest.
    – Multiple hot showers throughout the day, the vapor works wonders and helps offset the chills, which like you have been awful these last 2 nights.
    – And if all this fails, get to bed and live to fight another day.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Hope you get better soon as well. I love to drink hot milk with honey, it is an excellent drink in such a situation.

  25. bastik said on February 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I work whenever possible, though with symptoms like your’s I’d call in sick, since I can’t work from home.

    Drinking much helps.

    Condolences about your grandmothers death.

    I hope you get well very soon.

  26. Miguel said on February 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I’m sorry about your grandmother dying recently :(

    Hope you get well soon.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks, I’ll do my best to be up and running again after the next reboot.

  27. Gourav said on February 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Get well soon.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Gourav, I’m trying my best.

  28. Yoav said on February 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Being a freelancer myself I can sympathize. I also work when I feel I can and rest and sleep when I can’t. In order to speed up healing you can try using alternative medicine like having an acupuncturist give you treatment in your home. This can save you a lot of time in the recovery.
    Condolences about your grandmother.
    Get well soon!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Yoav. Trying my best to be up again tomorrow. It looks as if this is just a two day thing and not something that will last the whole week. I never did acupuncture before, because frankly, I’m not a huge fan of needles.

  29. BobbyPhoenix said on February 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I do the exact same thing. I also work from home, so I can’t really call in sick. I was very sick last week, and basically just rested on the couch until I felt like I could do something, and then worked until I felt like I had to rest again. I figure as long as I do something (no matter how small) I will at least feel better both ways. I did some work, and rested to get better. It’s a better feeling for me to do it this way than to not do work at all. I mean really if I just shut down the computer all day nothing at all would be done, and I would still be sick, and have to catch up that much more the next day, so working even just a little gets something accomplished.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      We are on the same page here. Doing at least something is better than doing nothing at all. The feeling that I did something despite the illness gives me the reassurance that work got done, and that is a good feeling that is helping in my recovery.

  30. Paul(us) said on February 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    First of all I want to give main condolences for your grandmother.
    I hope that your grandmother did not suffer near the end.
    Next I wish your all the best with your recuperation.
    I keep main fingers crossed for you.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks Paul(us). I’m trying my best to be up again in record time. My grandmother died peacefully and without pain.

  31. Julia said on February 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Hope you’ll feel better soon! Eat some oranges or kiwis!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      I love Kiwis and will get some fresh vegetables and fruit tomorrow.

  32. Dukislav said on February 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Get some rest, don’t worry about work…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks I will try my best not to worry about it today.

  33. ilev said on February 27, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Wish you to get better soon.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks Ilev, will do my best.

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