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"Anyway, T.J. and I did the Battle of the Books and for one of the rounds, T.J. was sick so I had to answer the questions all by myself."
James "TheOdd1sOut" Rallison, "My Horibal Speling [sic]"
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Being sick is no fun. There's the symptoms that can vary from annoying (rashes, sneezing) to downright terrible (lethargy, vomiting), and having to follow doctor's orders. It's even worse if there's something you want or need to do but can't because you're sick, and that's this trope.

Sometimes it's only disappointing (e.g. they can't go to the circus) but other times, it's more important (e.g. the superheroes have lost their powers and the only one who knows how to bring them back is sick and can't do it), but Working Through the Cold is not an option (either because their illness means they physically can't do the thing, they don't feel up to it, or they're not allowed to because they might get sicker or someone else might catch the germs). In some cases, you can expect a Disease-Prevention Aesop, either as an admonishment or when they recover.

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When Played for Laughs, it's common for a character with a job to get sick so somebody subs for them and is humorously incompetent. Sometimes this is doubled up by having another character try to nurse the sick one and also be humorously incompetent.

Often in children's entertainment, this is used to teach a lesson about either overcoming disappointment (such as when you're too sick to go to the fair or when an event is cancelled because one of the key people got sick), determination (e.g. "Even though X is sick and can't do Y, we must find a way for Y to happen anyway!"), or accepting new things (such as a substitute teacher).

Some plots might focus on a character trying to do their own job plus the sick one's job, which often makes them tired (perhaps leading to a Go-to-Sleep Ending), but not always. Some characters (usually kids) might even try to invoke it by trying to get sick so they won't have to do something. Usually, they don't get sick until later, when they don't want to be sick.

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Other times, the sick character isn't given much attention and may only be acknowledged by having one character say to another, "X is sick and can't do Y so you will have to do Y instead!", with the rest of the plot focusing solely on the character doing (or trying to do) Y.

A variation is when the character is not actually sick but instead injured, wore their voice out, mesmerised, etc. A common subversion is to have someone think they won't be able to do something but then get better before they try it. They may also work from home when sick.

Contrast Working Through the Cold (linked to above), Faking Another Person's Illness, Prank Injuries, Sick Captive Scam, Handicapped Badass, Beneficial Disease, Playing Sick, and Getting Sick Deliberately. Compare and contrast Sick Episode (where the entire plot hinges on characters being sick). Sometimes invoked by the trope Disease-Prevention Aesop (e.g. "Stay home so you don't spread germs!"). If Santa Claus gets sick, it can overlap with Subbing for Santa and Saving Christmas. Often overlaps with Absentee Actor. See Strike Episode, Vacation Episode, and "Not Important to This Episode" Camp for other reasons characters might not be doing their usual. Sometimes overlaps with Vetinari Job Security if the conflict comes from the fact that no one else can do their job correctly. Can overlap with Injured Limb Episode and Ruptured Appendix and often overlaps with Deus ex 'Scuse Me, OOC Is Serious Business ("It's not like Alice to be late for work! Oh, that's why!"), Worf Had the Flu, A Day in Her Apron, and Deus Exit Machina.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

  • In the Hello Kitty episode "Changing Our Clothes", the mother cat has a cold and so the father cat has to do the cooking, which he can't do. The mother cat also cannot dress the twins due to fear that her cold would spread. They learn to change their own clothes because Papa Cat proves incompetent at dressing them.
  • In Chapter 20 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (animated as the latter half of episode 6), Sequential Artist Nozaki fell sick and bedridden on the day before his deadline. He asks his assistants Hori, Sakura, and Wakamatsu to write the dialogue and apply screentones. The result was so much Mood Dissonance that Nozaki decides on the following day that he should ask for an extension.
  • Pokémon:
    • The episode, "Dressed For Jess Success" has Jessie sick, leaving James having to cross-dress as her "Jessilina" persona to win one of her contests. Not only does he fool the audience, but it actually turns out to be a rare case Team Rocket Wins, to the point Jessie feels a bit offended he may have done a better job than her.
    • In the episode "Battling at Full Volume!", Ash ends up getting sick which has Serena taking her time to help him get better. However, a trainer by the name of Jimmy arrives to challenge Ash to a battle. Knowing Ash is in no condition to battle and because Jimmy won't leave until he gets to battle Ash, Serena puts on Ash's clothes and battles Jimmy herself.
  • Digimon Adventure: Kari misses summer camp due to being sick with a cold. This means she's unable to join the other DigiDestined on the first trip to the Digital World. Without the benefit of her empathic powers, it becomes impossible for Homeostasis (the organization of good guys) to communicate to the kids why they've been brought to the Digital World. Later, the team has to do a lot of rushing and panicking before finding out the hard way that Kari is the eighth DigiDestined child and needs to join them and be kept safe from Myotismon. On the other hand, Gatomon wasn't available to protect her at the beginning of the kids' journey, either, so she might have been doomed if she had joined the other kids in the Digital World right away, in which case both the Digital and real worlds would have been doomed, as well.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: During a large portion of the Battle City Tournament, Serenity can't join Tristan and Duke in cheering Joey on in person because she's recovering from eye surgery. A boy helps her follow one of Joey's duels from her hospital bed using a laptop. After Serenity leaves the hospital, she takes her bandages off and recovers her eyesight just in time to save Joey from being drowned in the bottom of the ocean by a booby trap which drags him down there.
  • Ranma ½:
    • In Season 1, episode 12, Akane Tendō is cajoled by her Fūrinkan High School classmates to compete in Rhythmic Gymnastics against the devious powerhouse Kodachi Kunō. While learning the basics in the family dojo, Akane steps on a ball and sprains her ankle. Not wanting Akane to lose face at school, Ranma agrees to substitute for Akane in the upcoming match.
    • Late in the manga, Ukyo Kuonji is sick with a cold, and thus Akane, Ranma, and Konatsu take over tending to her restaurant, to rather catastrophic results.

     Comic Books 
  • Zigzagged in one story in Archie comics: Riverdale discovers a speedster, whereupon they field him as a shortstop. There, he easily snags anything hit to the pitcher's right. A crosstown rival team gets a thug on base, where the thug deliberately slams his cleats into the speedster's leg, hobbling him. However, it turns out that the speedster can also throw Major League-grade pitches, whiffing rival batters with even greater ease.
  • In one of the Giles comics, there's a bunch of writing instead of a normal comic, explaining that Mr. Giles can't write a comic as he's away in hospital with blood poisoning.
  • Jem and the Holograms (IDW) has a sick arc where Pizzazz injures her larynx due to a car accident. She is unable to sing so her band gets a temporary replacement. They decide to use Blaze.
  • In the Scooby-Doo comic "Big Girls Don't Sneeze", Velma has a cold or the flu (even she doesn't know which) and so the rest must press on without her.
  • In a Tintin book called The Castafiore Emerald, Captain Haddock sprains his leg and has to be in a wheelchair, so he cannot go on a trip to avoid Castafiore's visit, which was his plan as he finds her annoying.

     Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In one strip, Calvin tries to invoke this by trying to catch a cold by sticking his head out the window because he forgot to do his homework and so doesn't want to go to school.
    • Another strip had Calvin's father preparing dinner because his mother was sick, leading to an incident of Dads Can't Cook.
    • One strip had Calvin be sick and his mom thought he was trying to invoke this to get out of going to school. It's only when she realizes he's aware that it's Saturday that she understands its actually serious.
  • The Pointy-Haired Boss informs Dilbert that everyone who ate at the potluck meal developed food poisoning, and that Dilbert must absorb their workload as the sole healthy employee. In the Tuesday 1 October 2019 strip, Dilbert asks if there are leftovers and if he can have a plate.

     Fan Works 

     Films — Animation 
  • A Flintstones Christmas Carol has a Running Gag where just about every actor comes down with the "Bedrock Bug", leading to Wilma having to cover for all the missing roles.
  • In Mulan, Mulan's father is suffering from a lame leg when the emperor calls for men to push back the Huns. This motivates her to go out in his place as "Ping", even at the risk of dishonor and death if she's caught.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Eddie Adams, as Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights, is so coked-up that he can't achieve an erection. After much time in the bathroom masturbating, Eddie finally appears on set raring to go. Director Jack Horner has become disgusted with Eddie's mercurial temperament and has scheduled a new recruit to replace Eddie in the latest production. Eddie doesn't take it well and storms off.
  • In the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, Brian Little the comic artist gets mono, which sparks the contest among the other kids to fill in for him.
  • In the third Home Alone movie, Alex Pruitt is out of school sick, which is the only reason he is the only person still in the neighborhood when the spies put their plan into action.
  • The first Mission: Impossible movie has intelligence analyst William Donloe become nauseous and ill while he's been tasked with updating the Top Secret field agent list. This leaves the terminal free for rogue agent Ethan Hunt to access its files. Justified, since Ethan's accomplice covertly added an emetic to Donloe's coffee.
  • In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Miss Piggy) wants to send the Angry Bees, but they apparently have stomach flu, so she sends the Flying Monkeys instead.
  • Space Jam sees most of the Tune Squad literally getting crushed by the Monstars. With only four players left intact, the Tune Squad fields the non-athletic Stan Podolak, who actually scores despite being gang-tackled and Squashed Flat. Now, the Tune Squad faces a loss by forfeit, until Bill Murray appears in a Big Damn Heroes moment (complete with imitation fanfare), filling the fifth player's slot.
  • Subverted in Tombstone, when Doc Holliday wants to accompany Wyatt Earp to his private duel with Johnny Ringo, which Wyatt is convinced he cannot win. Doc has tuberculosis and can't get out of bed, and plaintively asks Wyatt what it's like "to wear one of those," meaning his deputy badge. It's all subterfuge - Wyatt gives him the badge to make him feel better and goes to his meeting only to find that Doc (who is really sick, but not feeling quite as poorly as he made out) has beaten him there and killed Johnny Ringo for him.

     Literature 
  • The Accident is a kids' book where a little girl breaks her arm and can't go to the zoo, but she dreams she's at the zoo while under anaesthetic having her arm casted.
  • Once, Sid was sick and couldn't go to the picnic in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
  • Amelia Bedelia:
    • In one of the books set in the past, Amelia is sick and can't go to the zoo, which is what inspires her to make her own zoo.
    • In another book set in the past, a girl in Amelia's class is out sick and so doesn't vote in the class election.
  • This happens a couple of times in books which are part of The American Girls Collection:
    • In "Changes for Molly", Molly decides to go to bed with her hair soaking wet as part of an attempt to curl it, but she catches a cold and ends up missing the Miss Victory pageant she was looking to tap dance in. Older brother Ricky says replacement wasn't as good of a dancer.
    • In "Josefina's Surprise", the titular character is asked to play the part of Maria (Mary) in her village's Las Posadas procession, but she doesn't have the nerve and turns it down. She undergoes and character development over the course of the book, and when Christmas Eve comes and the older village girl tapped to play Maria in her stead gets sick, she's ready to take on the role.
  • In the Animal Ark book "The Midnight Mouse", Jack has the flu and cannot stay at a hotel; his niece and her friend and both sets of parents end up staying instead.
  • In The Berenstain Bears book "Sick Days", Sister Bear is sick and stays home from school.
  • Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten has Miss Bindergarten calling in sick with cold-like symptoms. Some of her class get it, too, and the book ends with Miss Bindergarten coming back and the substitute teacher coming down with the same illness.
  • One of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books has Clifford dressing as a circus elephant and subbing for an actual elephant who had "a cold in his nose".
  • In the kids' book Copy Cat, A Dog Named "Dog" is frustrated because a cat named "Cat" is doing everything she does. When she snaps at him, he disappears, and then it turns out to be because he's sick. Then, he recovers and shows up to play, but Dog is sick now.
  • Implied in the kids' book Dear Substitute. It's never said why the original teacher is not at work, but she's seen in bed with a cup of tea.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • In "The Last Straw", Greg gets sick the day he's meant to go camping with his father Frank, so they stay at a motel together to have a do-over.
    • In "Rodrick Rules", Rodrick is sick on the day of school photos, so Frank sends in a photo of him, but he was younger in the photo.
    • In "Old School", a girl deliberately gives herself food poisoning and a boy deliberately makes himself sick by eating deodorant, so that they will be sent home from the farm they're staying at because they miss their parents.
  • Dirty Bertie:
    • In a story titled "Dare!", Bertie's teacher Miss Boot has laryngitis so Mr. Weakly substitutes.
    • In "Germs!", Suzy stays home from school with the chickenpox. Bertie tries to catch it from her so that he can skip school too, but when he does catch it, it's the weekend so he can't play with his friends.
  • Played for Laughs in a Discworld book titled "Sourcery" where inspiration is physical energy that gives people ideas, but it keeps missing people and hitting animals instead, who lack the mental ability to be inspired. One idea was about to hit a man but he was "in bed with shingles" so it hit a frog.
    • In the same book, Rincewind is about to be sentenced to death by being eaten by a tiger, but the tiger's sick, so he gets put in the snake pit instead (there's only one snake in there)
    • In Feet of Clay, Nobby keeps begging off work to participate in the Ankh-Morpork Civil War reenactments (he thinks, rightly, that Mister Vimes would go spare if he knew what Nobby was really doing). Being sick was part of this, leading to this exchange between Colon and Vimes:
    Colon: Nobby's sick, sir.
    Vimes: Well, I knew that.
    Colon: I mean off sick, sir.
  • In one of the FUDGE books, Fudge cannot go on a boat ride as he's gotten sick from eating all the berries.
  • In one of the Just books, Andy does not want to play Romeo in his school's Romeo and Juliet play because Juliet will be played by Danny, so he invokes this by deliberately getting himself sick. However, when he learns that Juliet will be played by Lisa instead, he gets rid of his disease by eating fruit and "thinking healthy thoughts".
  • Though not sick or injured in the conventional sense, Hermione was unavailable for part of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets due to being turned into an anthropomorphic cat and then petrified.
    • Ron can't join Harry and Hermione in using the Time-Turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because Snuffles (Sirius Black in dog form) nearly tears his leg off. The others have to leave him in the hospital wing.
  • In Melanie's Marvelous Measles, Melanie stays home sick from school.
  • In The Midnight Gang, Sally has a serious illness (it acts like cancer but it's left ambiguous) and so sometimes is too weak or too busy getting treatment to go on adventures. However, Tom starts out injured, and Robin and Amber are injured and stay injured throughout the book, yet they all still go on adventures.
  • The Milly, Molly book "Milly, Molly, and Aunt Maude" has the "injury" variation in which Maude can't do her gardening due to her broken leg, so the titular girls do it for her.
  • In the Mog book "Mog and the Baby", Nicky doesn't go to school with Debbie because he has a cold.
  • Roys Bedoys: Maker is absent from school due to being sick in “That’s Dirty, Roys Bedoys!”.
  • The zookeeper is sick in A Sick Day for Amos McGee and cannot work at the zoo.
  • In the gross-out picture book Sick Simon, Ms. Lowinsky is out sick at one point. Played with for Simon himself, who goes to school despite being sick, but then later takes a sick day.
  • In Stories for Nine-Year-Olds one story involves nobody quite knowing who should bring what to school. It eventually turns out to be a girl named June Nicols who was out with chickenpox anyway.
  • In the children's book Vinegar Pancakes and Vanishing Cream, the protagonist, Martin Elwood Snodgrass, has missed his annual class trip to the zoo in kindergarten and first grade because he was home sick both times, but he is determined to go in second grade. Inevitably, he discovers the night before the trip that he has come down with chickenpox; he tries to keep it a secret, but by the time he boards the school bus to the zoo, his whole body is covered with them and he is sent home yet again.

     Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Bewitched has the "transformed" variation; Darren can't come to the office as he's been turned into a chimpanzee.
  • Bones:
    • There's a season 11 episode that opens at a crime scene and a couple of other characters have to sub in collecting evidence because Hodgins is unavailable due to a "wheelchair emergency". Translation being that the sex was too rough and a wheel popped off.
    • Booth was sidelined in one early episode because of his injured back. Brennan works with Agent Perotta. The episode ends with Brennan adjusting his back and it makes him feel better.
  • CSI: NY has an episode where Mac is at home with cracked ribs after a suspect he's chasing knocks him down a staircase. It turns into a Rear Window Witness plot as he spends time watching the apartment building across the street due to being stuck and unable to do much.
  • Dragnet: Sgt. Friday is paired with a temporary partner while Bill Gannon is sick. The temporary partner turns out to be bookmaking on the side and Joe helps arrest him.
  • In an episode of The Muppet Show, Fozzie fills in when Kermit is sick, but Fozzie does a terrible job.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Great Wall", Detective Murdoch is called upon to investigate the death of a constable whose uniformed body is found in an ethnic Chinese neighbourhood outside his patch. The excuse given is that the detective attached to the nearest station house is ill with the mumps.
  • The Partridge Family: The titular band was originally going to have a friend named Gloria as a member, but she became sick on the last day they were able to borrow instruments, so their mother instead ended up becoming part of the band.
  • Happened several times in Sesame Street:
    • Played with the time the young Gabi was sick on a Birthday Episode and her friends couldn't come to her birthday party.
    • In one episode, Prairie Dawn wakes up with a cold after sleeping over with the Rodriguez family. Unfortunately, she's supposed to play the piano for a pageant on that day. After taking a nap, she comes up with the idea to have someone fill in for her. Big Bird suggests Bob do it, and he puts on a falsetto and a dress in order to do so. When Prairie Dawn hears of this, she begs him to put the voice back on and narrate the pageant again for her, which he reluctantly does.
    • Another time Grandmama Bear has a cold, so an older Gabi has to babysit.
    • A fourth time Big Bird and Zoe both have colds, so they can't have a play-date (they have a "play-date by proxy" with Telly).
    • A fifth time Gina was out sick from running the daycare, so Savion filled in.
    • Another time, Maria has a stomach virus and is sent to the hospital, so she can't do her job. She comes back later in the day, though.
    • "You've Got to Be Patient to Be a Patient" is a song all about this: it's about how you can't go out and play while sick, so you'll just have to be patient. It's sung once to Big Bird when he has a lung infection, once to Maria when she has her stomach virus, and once to a little girl when she has the flu.
    • In the song "Best Friend Blues", Ernie sings about how Bert can't play with him because he's sick.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Invoked when Rom, Leeta, and a bunch of Quark's other employees form a union demanding sick leave.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • In "Angel One" Chaos Ensues when Wesley, his friend, Picard, Worf and Geordi catch a virus and cannot do their jobs.
    • "The Survivors". While not exactly sick, Troi is unavailable as she has had music put into her head telepathically.
    • Troi and Riker are unavailable in "Violations" as they were both put into comas psychically.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Resolutions", Janeway and Chakotay have a virus and so they get put on another planet where it doesn't affect them so that they can find a cure, while Tuvok takes over.
    • In "Day of Honour", B'Elanna mentions that three background engineers were off sick.
    • In "Relativity", the temporal shifts happening on Voyager cause "space sickness" in some of the crew, including Tom Paris's partner in double ping-pong, so he partners with Seven of Nine instead.
  • Top Gear (UK) had an example that crosses over into Real Life. Jeremy Clarkson once came down with a case of laryngitis and Richard had to fill his role, testing the car that week, interviewing the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car, introducing the segments, and even introducing The Stig:
    Some say that one of his legs gets longer whenever he sees a pretty lady...(lengthy pause)...and that I haven't done one of these in some time and I've forgotten to make up a second thing.
  • In the episode of The Wonder Years "Goodbye", Kevin gets tutored after class by his math teacher; however, shortly before the midterm, his teacher suddenly tells Kevin he will not be available to tutor him anymore until the test. Kevin feels betrayed and sabotages his test as a result; the next Monday, he finds out that his teacher had been sick and that was why he had not been available to tutor Kevin, and his teacher had died over the weekend. It turns out one of his last acts the teacher did was "misplace" Kevin's test, giving Kevin the chance to take the test again.
  • In Worzel Gummidge (based on the Worzel Gummidge book series), the Crowman's carrier dove has a fractured wing and so she can't do her job.
    • In another episode, "Worzel's Nephew", Harry sprains his ankle, so Worzel's bratty nephew Pickles fills in for him.
    • Subverted when Mr. Peters says that he can't sing in the choir as he has laryngitis but he gets better when they're singing.
    • In "Dolly Clothespeg", Worzel tells Dolly that the caravan they're stealing belongs to "the tattooed man", who's away in hospital with blood poisoning.

     Music 
  • The song "I'm Feeling Ill", meant to teach English, has the protagonist say that he is ill with a severe cold and therefore can't play or go to school for two or three days.

     Poetry 
  • Subverted in the poem "Sick", where Peggy Anne McCay says she's too sick for school, but then it turns out that not only is it Saturday, she's faking it.

     Theatre 
  • Played with in the Avenue Q song "Girlfriend in Canada": Rod claims that said Canadian girlfriend, Alberta, was initially going to visit but had the flu, although the play heavily implies that Alberta doesn't really exist and that Rod is making her up to hide the fact that he's gay.

     Video Games 
  • In a Licensed Game for Horrible Histories, a man is reluctantly playing Juliet in a Romeo and Juliet play and notes that "all the lady parts are played by boy actors, but both our boy actors are sick, so just my luck, I have to fill in."
  • The supposed new character of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Jaycee, turned out to actually be veteran Julia Chang, who has temporarily assumed her identity, after the real Jaycee was injured at the time.

     Web Animation 
  • In TheOdd1sOut, the video "My Horibal Speling [sic]" has James mention that his classmate T.J. got sick at one point during a school competition so he wasn't at school.
  • Subverted in the Play Kids episode "Theo's New Friend" where Mimi is out of sorts with some sort of illness involving sneezing (possibly a cold). At first, she says she can't play with Theo, but then she does play with him, wearing a makeshift Hazmat Suit.
In Zebrafish,In episode 8,Tanya's not at rehearsal due to a leukemia-involved hospital visit,and she's understandably cranky about it at the beginning.

  • The Petri Dish:
    • In one of strips, Thaddeus does not show up to the lab because he has the flu.
    • In one strip, Gordon comments that a lot of his employees are out with the flu.

     Web Original 
  • On Protect Dont Infect, one of the things they tell you to do is stay at home when sick.
  • Mentioned on Springhole:
    • In "Plotting, Conniving, & Manipulating- What it Is and What it Isn't", a hypothetical example is that a conniver wants to stop a treaty between the Redlanders and the Bluelanders and knows that Jessie from Redland loves dogs while Peter from Blueland hates them, so the conniver plans to get the two of them interacting to put Peter in a bad mood. It points out that one of the ways this could go wrong is if Jessie got food poisoning and "[spent] the whole day in her hotel room puking her guts out". It also mentions a flu as an example of why someone's supporters aren't available.
    • In the Logical Fallacies article about the Just World Fallacy (the fallacy that everyone deserves what they get) mentions a hypothetical scenario where a woman gets sick and has to pull out of a competition, so her competition feels that they must've deserved something to get the lucky break.

     Web Videos 
  • In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Chef Pee Pee Gets Sick!", Chef Pee Pee is sick and unable to perform his cooking duties, so Bowser Junior takes over for him, with the help of Chris the Cucumber.

     Western Animation 
  • In the All Hail King Julien episode “The King and Mrs. Mort”, Julien is sick and most of the kingdom is away on a party cruise, so Mort fills in as king to entertain a judge from a big competition— with disastrous results. Why? The judge, a mongoose named Pam, tricks Mort into marriage and takes over the Lemur Kingdom.
  • Angelina Ballerina:
    • In a Sick Episode Gracie and Alice have "the snuffles" and cannot be Angelina's helpers.
    • "Angelina In The Wings". Several "sunbeam" dancers disappear and are said to have "the mouse pox".
    • In the Next Steps episode "Hip-Hop Boys", A.J. injures his leg, so Marco dances for him.
    • In the episode "Angelina's Surprise", Angelina lies that Mrs. Mouseling is pregnant because she's jealous of the attention the Pinkpaws twins are getting about their baby brother. She then feels guilty and wants to avoid going to a party, so when she hears that Mrs. Hodgepodge can't come because she's broken her leg, Angelina pretends to break hers.
  • Arthur:
    • In "Double Tibble Trouble", D.W. and Emily decide to be kind to Tommy Tibble and fill in for him as his twin when Timmy gets sick. Just when they've had all they can take, Tommy gets better and Timmy gets sick.
    D.W.: *Sighs* I'll take the first shift.
    Emily: Thanks. You're a real friend.
    • In "Is There a Doctor in the House?", Mr and Mrs. Read are sick and can't look after Arthur, DW, and baby Kate, so Grandma Thora has to.
    • In "The Great McGrady", Mrs. McGrady takes a month off her job as a school cook due to cancer, so her Lethal Chef cousin Skip has to fill in.
    • Zigzagged in "Arthur's Chicken Pox". Arthur gets the chickenpox and worries that he won't get better for the circus. He does, however, D.W. catches his chicken pox and can't go.
  • In the Big City Greens episode "Cricket's Shoes", Cricket is sick, so his family has to fill in for his daily activities: Tilly has to take his shift at the coffee shop, Gramma has to take his friend Remy to the trampoline park, and Bill has to do a crazy dare involving running through a dog park while wearing meat.
  • In "Wendy's Busy Day", an episode of Bob the Builder, Bob is not well enough to do his job due to having a cold.
  • In Bubble Guppies episode "Who's Going to Play the Big Bad Wolf?" the actor playing the big bad wolf has a cold and so Deema has to fill in for him.
  • Charlie and Lola:
    • In "I am Going to Save a Panda", Lola can't go to the fundraising zone due to chickenpox, but she can raise money from home.
    • Implied in one episode where Lola asks Lotta over the phone if she can play and Lola is seen responding in a disappointed way, "But I like germs", the implication being that she can't come over because she has a contagious illness and may spread germs.
  • Subverted in The Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle's class is frantic because they're getting ready to do Broadcast Day and Ralphie is unaccounted for. When his mom calls in to tell Ms. Frizzle he's sick, they respond by coming to him and set up in his room so he can participate in the broadcast – which ends up entailing the class going inside his body and filming his white blood cells fighting the germs. After it's over, Ms. Frizzle and the class leave Ralphie to rest.
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood:
    • In "Daniel Gets a Cold", Daniel can't attend Prince Wednesday's birthday party because he has a cold.
    • In "Mom Tiger is Sick", Mom Tiger can't make invitations to a fruit-picking day because she has a cold.
    • In another episode, O the Owl has to stay home sick and misses out on a trip to the crayon factory. Daniel takes pictures of the entire crayon-making process for him.
    • In "Daniel's Neighbors Help", Mom Tiger catches another cold and Dad Tiger's already at work. Lady Elaine takes Daniel to school, only for both of them to find Daniel has a cold and has to come right back home.
  • In Dennis The Menace And Gnasher, the episode "Couldn't Catch a Cold" sees all the students at Dennis's school except for Dennis himself catch a serious version of the common cold called the "Beanotown cold". Three of the boys try to go to school anyway but are sent home, so Dennis becomes the only kid at school. The next day, he catches the cold and is sent home on the day his school is having a beach trip.
  • Doc McStuffins:
    • In "Doctoring the Doc", Doc has the flu and so cannot do her usual.
    • Parodied in "A Day Without Cuddles" where Lambie can't cuddle but all that's wrong with her is she's covered in flour and doesn't want to spread that, but they treat it like an actual disease.
  • Bear is sick and can't attend the Halloween party in the Halloween Episode "Franklin's Halloween", of Franklin.
  • Generation O!: Zigzagged in "Deviated Tonsils". Molly has a sore throat and it turns out that her tonsils are infected. The sore throat goes away before she has to perform on stage but then it comes back while she's on stage.
  • In an episode of Handy Manny, a guy injures his leg and can't dance, so Manny dances with his dance partner.
  • In an episode of The Hive, Buzzbee has to fill in for an injured Postman Spider.
  • Zigzagged in the Horrid Henry episode "Henry's Sick Day". Despite the title, Henry only fakes being sick to wag school, but his little brother Peter really is sick and has to stay home from school. Their mother then gets sick and is bedridden so Henry has to wait on them both. At the end, their father is also sick, though he's already done his work for the day.
  • In the Disney short "How to Catch a Cold", Common Sense invokes this by telling the sick man not to go to work.
  • The Jetsons has Elroy win a visit from television hero Nimbus The Great. However, the visit later has to be canceled because the actor who plays Nimbus has the flu. After George Jetson visits the sick fellow and berates him for disappointing a child, Nimbus decides to tough it out and visit Elroy. Plot complication: George realizes the man shouldn't be spreading his ailment, so he dons a lookalike outfit to pose as Nimbus for Elroy's sake.
  • One Jimmy Neutron episode has Jimmy subbing for someone for the school theater because the guy broke his leg on the way to school.
  • Kim Possible: In "Sick Day", after Kim's mom puts her foot down and makes her stay in bed to recover from her cold, Ron and Rufus go after the MacGuffin on their own. They successfully retrieve it, helped by the fact that Shego (also sick) doesn't try to stop them.
  • In The Koala Brothers episode "Ned Catches a Cold", Ned does indeed catch a cold so Mitzi takes up his job.
  • In Little Princess they have to postpone the picnic due to Princess's cold in "I Don't Want a Cold", and Princess has to miss a fair trip due to a sprained leg in "I Want to Go to the Fair".
  • In The Loud House, it's mentioned that in the past, Rita and Lynn Sr. had to spend time apart because Lynn Sr. got mono from an infected microphone.
  • Madeline:
    • Subverted in "Madeline's Christmas" when all the girls except Madeline, Miss Clavel, a mouse, and the doctor all catch colds. They say that their Christmas trip is off, but then Marie cures them, and then their families all come to the school to share Christmas with them.
    • Subverted in "Madeline and the Costume Party" where the girls all get chickenpox and worry that they won't be able to attend the party, but they get better in time for it after all.
  • In the "Aunt Maude" episode of Milly, Molly, the title character has a broken leg and so Milly and Molly look after her garden for her. They end up getting sick as there is an epidemic of an unknown illness, but they recover.
    • In "Dog Walking Service", Humphrey has chickenpox and cannot walk his dog so Milly and Molly do.
    • Zigzagged in "Class Concert". Initially, both Milly and Molly are going to sing in the concert, but then Milly gets eliminated, not because there's anything wrong with her, but because she's a bad singer. Molly then loses her voice (though not due to illness) and Aunt Maude has Milly make her a "special cure". We don't know until the last minute if she'll be able to sing in the concert, but eventually she can sing in the concert.
  • Mr. Peabody is bedridden with distemper in an installment, leaving Sherman to take on the time traveling adventure at hand.
  • In the My Friends Tigger & Pooh episode "Darby, Solo Sleuth", the reason Darby is, as the title suggests, doing detective work solo is because Tigger and Pooh, who normally sleuth with her, both have colds. Rabbit tries to accompany her but he sneezes too and Darby assumes that he has a cold even though Beaver implies that it's allergy season and so won't let him.
  • In Numberjacks, the episode "The Dreaded Lurgi" zigzags this. Four and Six both get a disease called 'the dreaded lurgi' and try to do their jobs but their illness makes it hard for them to, so Three sends them to bed. Later, Three gets the disease and while she can make the brain gain What's that? , she needs more help than usual.
  • In Peppa Pig, one time Miss Rabbit breaks her leg, and Chaos Ensues as she has three jobs she now can't do.
  • In "Polka Dot Pox", an episode of Pinkie Dinkie Doo, Tyler has to miss out on his school trip due to a cold, so Pinkie tells him a story about the polka dot pox.
  • Postman Pat:
    • In one episode Chef Ollie is sick and Pat does his job.
    • Zigzagged in one episode where Julian appears to be staying home sick from school, but then it turns out he's pretending, then Jess breaks his leg, but he's a cat so he doesn't really have any obligations, then Pat gets sick with what seems like a cold, but his job has finished anyway.
  • In Rugrats "All's Well That Pretends Well", Angelica tries to make the babies seem sick so they can't go to the circus. At the end, the parents believe she is sick and make her stay at home, the babies miss Angelica and start Playing Sick.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Round Springfield", a lot of the kids at school decide to follow Bart's lead and get an appendectomy, leaving only Ralph Wiggum, Martin Prince, and Lisa to put on a band performance of "Stars and Stripes Forever".
    • In the episode "Little Big Mom" Marge gets injured at a ski resort, so Lisa decides to take over in taking care of the house. But Homer and Bart are pretty unhelpful, acting like Lazy Bums.
    • In the episode "Worst Episode Ever" Bart and Milhouse take over running the Android Dungeon comic book store while Comic Book Guy recovers from a heart attack.
    • Lisa Simpson meets her perfect substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom in the episode "Lisa's Substitute" because Miss Hoover has Lyme Disease (or at least thinks she does).
    • In one episode, Ralph gets sick from drinking too much juice, so Lisa has to fill his role in a sports match.
  • In one Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner episode, Bugs Bunny fills in for Roadrunner as the latter has "sprained a giblet".

     Real Life 
  • Absence from school or work can have a wide range of implications.
    • When you're out sick from school, there is a wide range of protocol for picking up or making up missed work, usually entailing a deadline for getting caught up and grade penalties for missing it. Extended absences for being sick are treated the same as being out so long for any other reason, with the potential loss of placement in a private school, the possibility of being held back, or even legal citations for neglect for parents and guardians. Many school systems make provisions to enable students who will be unable to access school for a length of time lasting at least a few weeks to be taught at home.
    • Being out sick from work at all can be a serious threat to income and job security, making paid sick leave a big deal. It's not unheard of for colleagues to donate their sick time to colleagues who are in a tight spot because of personal or family medical emergencies.
    • If this happens to a starter on a sports team, whoever usually substitutes for them will be called into the lead; if the team has a minor league affiliate, there's a chance one of the better players from that team will be called in to back up the substitute in turn, especially if there are few people already with the team who can fill that role, such as a goaltender.
  • Understudies are theater performers who are prepared to fill in for other performers in a role if the primary performer is unavailable, especially if they're sick. Swings are passably prepared to fill any of a number of such roles in the event of an emergency.
  • Weekend news anchors will sometimes fill in for weekday anchors, and reporters fill in for weekend anchors when they get sick, unless the newscast the sick anchor stands to miss is especially short, in which case one is especially likely to do it alone.


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