Calling in sick is one of the simplest ways to forgo work so you can watch YouTube videos and drink tea in bed. But unless you happen to be a good pretender, you need to be genuinely sick for this to take place, and most people would agree that the body aches and sore throats are rarely worth a free day at home.
However, some desperate souls despise their jobs and other obligations so much that they bend over backwards to get legitimately sick or wounded enough to stay home, or go elsewhere, instead. Take this daring Australian dude, who recently posted on Reddit about how he purposefully dunked his finger in scalding oil while on the job so he could meet up with some friends instead. Or what about this young woman, who posted on Quora about how she inhaled stairway dust, exercised beyond her capabilities, soaked in a frigid bath, breathed in Lysol and insecticides, screamed and sang into her pillow and stuck onions in her armpits so she would feel sick enough to skip school.
The dedication is real.
More common than those who go through with purposefully debilitating themselves, though, are those who question the internet about the means to do so, only to be barraged by comments about how idiotic wrecking your own body is. Which, well, yeah.
That said, I do want to share a couple of the strange and inventive means by which the internet and its people suggest getting sick on purpose. One redditor, for example, claims that they often used to inhale their own pee to puke and skip school, writing, “I made sure the bathroom door was open so my mom could hear me vomiting.” Several recommend eating cigarettes, which would certainly work, and one in particular states, “Gas station sushi with warm curdled chocolate milk (add a couple teaspoons of vinegar).”
Creative! Although doing the opposite of what we suggest in our guide to not getting sick when you have a sick partner could be effective, too. Again, though, none of this is necessarily smart, even if you somehow manage to take a calculated approach at getting yourself sick.
Don’t believe me?
Take it from a couple of esteemed experts instead!
While biological sciences professor David Westenberg says getting sick on purpose might not be mortally dumb, “it would be highly risky.” This is mainly because, even if you were to come upon a relatively “harmless” microbe, the effects it might have change from person to person. “The problem is that illness is very individualized,” Westenberg confirms. “The signs and symptoms of illness are our body responding to the infection and trying to get rid of it — everyone’s response will be different based on their genetics, their general health, their diet, how much of the infecting organism is present, any other infections we might be dealing with and so on.”
“We see this all the time with family members, roommates and colleagues,” Westenberg continues, “who all get exposed to the same infectious agent. Some never get sick, others get mild symptoms and others get severely sick.” Plus, we can probably assume that the average dude purposefully getting sick to skip out on work would have trouble pinpointing a specific microbe — there are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold alone — that would only do just enough damage.
That said, Westenberg reminds me that this has been done, albeit under different circumstances. “There are a lot of interesting stories about people intentionally getting themselves and others sick, as well as the things that can go wrong,” he explains. “For example, the infamous Salmonella salad bar bioterrorism attack in Oregon, back in the 1980s. One of the coolest stories about faking getting sick happened in World War II, when a physician in a small town in Poland infected towns people with a ‘harmless’ bacterium that made it look like they had a more serious illness. The German Army was concerned about exposing their people to the more serious illness, so they avoided occupying the town, which likely saved many lives — one of the few times when the benefits of the infection far outweighed the risk of a negative outcome.”
The lesson being that you’d need serious medical knowledge and a nice dose of luck to get yourself sick just enough to skip work and still feel kind of okay. But then you should also consider how incapacitating yourself might affect those around you. “Even seemingly ‘harmless’ microbes can be dangerous to some people, and we can’t always predict who might become seriously ill,” Westenberg emphasizes. “This is the problem we’re currently seeing in the anti-vaxx movement: Infectious diseases that people view as ‘harmless,’ such as measles and chickenpox, still kill people. So, infectious organisms aren’t something to take lightly.”
Therefore, Westenberg suggests that simply faking sick would be a much better, much safer option. “If someone wants to fake getting sick, I’d suggest sticking with some of the classic methods — hold a thermometer in front of a radiator until it’s high enough to register a fever, or draw spots all over your face with a red pen,” he says.
If you still somehow manage to give yourself a cold or something similar, immunologist Kathleen Dass says your best bet is to take steps that shorten the duration of your cold, allowing you more control over your sickness and how you use it to skip out on events. “Intranasal steroids or nasal sprays can be used by themselves as monotherapy or adjunctive therapy during viral colds,” she explains. “Three studies have actually shown improved symptom control with a nasal spray as monotherapy when compared with an antibiotic. The adult dose is two sprays per nostril once daily. When using, make sure to angle the nasal spray toward the outside of your eyes and sniff gently.” She also mentions that elderberry has been shown to shorten the duration of colds.
But then again, if you make yourself better, you have to go back to work. Crap.