Mid adult man lying in bed looking at thermometer reading. Photo: Kathleen Finlay (Getty).
Being sick sucks. But not all illnesses are created equal. We’re here to rank the worst common ailments that are bad enough to make you call in sick to work, but not bad enough to kill you. Enjoy. And please, pass the tissues.
Ranking The Worst Ways To Get Sick
10. Stuffy nose
You never appreciate how easy it is to breathe with your mouth closed until your face feels like someone has stuffed each of your nostrils full of gauze. A solid eight hours of sleep should help you shake off this congestion…problem is, unless you are propped up at a 90 degree angle on your bed by every single pillow in your house, there’s not a chance in hell you can push any clean air through all of the snot that’s accumulated in your nose. What’s worse, your only solution are decongestants like Sudafed or Afrin, which work on the first day, but by day three have dried you out so badly that your nose bleeds every time you blow it. Which is every five minutes. All day (and night) long.
9. Pink eye
While this is one of the more disgusting reasons to call in sick, it’s also pretty harmless. You may look like you washed your contacts out with a toilet brush, but it’s pretty simple to cure in less than a week. There are two damaging side effects of pink eye outside of the sickness itself. One: people are terrified to be anywhere near you. Not only during the infection, but afterwards. Which leads to the second issue: everyone now assumes you wipe your butt and then immediately rub your poo hands in your eyes. Hope you enjoy your new nickname, Dr. Poo Hands.
We’re talking persistent cough here, meaning there’s a tickle in your throat every time you do anything. Go ahead, try to take a deep breath or laugh really hard without breaking into an embarrassing, whooping cough-like explosion that’s equal parts phlegm and volume. On top of that, you’re also dealing with the knowledge that everyone around you is absolutely furious about having to hear your incessant barking. Then you try to hold it in longer. And then it comes out even louder. This also sucks at night, as it’s nearly impossible for you — or anyone near you — to sleep. So if you have a significant other, chances are you and your hacking have a couple of nights lined up on the living room couch together.
A less common offshoot of the headache, the earache doesn’t get nearly enough respect as a debilitating illness because everyone just thinks it’s a sore ear. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Having an inner earache messes with your balance, your eyesight, your showering (water is your enemy) and your ability to lie down to sleep without shooting pain running up and down the side of your body. And since there are no physical signs of an earache, you just look like a normal human being with nothing bad going on. This leads to your friends calling you a pansy. A lot. Like even more than usual.
6. Sore throat
Cough drops may temporarily soothe your pain but they make everything taste like pennies. You will also never, ever in your life truly realize how many times you actually swallow in a day, or while you’re trying to fall asleep, until you’ve had a proper sore throat. And if you lose your voice, you are the butt of jokes from every one of your smart-ass friends who find it hilarious that you have no way to defend yourself other than furiously waving your hands like a drunken charades player.
Your brain feels like it’s being crunched in a vice. Bonus points go to migraines for the lack of impact going to the doctor has on your state of torturous pain. Doctors will run tests, those tests will be inconclusive and then they send you back to work. The constant throbbing in your frontal lobes is bad, but the mental challenge of not snapping at everyone who keeps asking if you’re feeling better is far worse.
There’s a full complement of nursery rhymes dedicated to being stuck in a bad place with diarrhea. That should tell you everything you need to know about society’s all-inclusive fear of the runs. We all have a diarrhea story. And they would all make “The Exorcist” seem like a feel-good coming-of-age comedy. Every time you have Taco Bell or Indian food, diarrhea is lurking. Be safe out there, friends.
The only way to feel better when you have to puke is to puke. And puking sucks. Everything you just ate comes violently rushing back up through your mouth. (BONUS: it’s coming out your nose, too!) Once you’re done with the food, here comes the bile. And after all of this, no matter how many times you brush your teeth or what you use to gargle, you can’t shake that horrible taste for at least a day. It also guarantees that you will never again be able to enjoy eating whatever it was you ate directly before the puking started.
2. Diarrhea And Vomiting At The Same Time
You don’t know which end it’s coming out, but it’s coming out soon and it’s coming out like a busted fire hydrant. One solution: try sitting on the toilet while also projectile vomiting into the bathtub. But is that really a “solution”? That’s like putting a band-aid on a severed leg, only in this case, the band-aid is a toilet and the severed leg is diarrhea caked across every tile in your bathroom. (Come to think of it, a severed leg actually sounds pretty pleasant compared to the one-two punch of diarrhea and vomiting.)
You’re freezing and shivering but also dripping in sweat and your skin could fry an egg. A walk from the bedroom to the bathroom and back will have you feeling like you just completed a triathlon. You can’t: breathe, sleep, shit, eat, watch TV, not watch TV or really do anything without experiencing horrific pain. If you go a single minute past the six hour time limit on your DayQuil (or, in the middle of the night, NyQuil) dosage, you might die. The flu is the absolute worst.