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Working Through the Cold

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"Can you believe this? [Doofenshmirtz] had the nerve to call in sick. I'm here. Carl's here. Don't you think I'd rather be at home watching Ducky Momo?"
Major Monogram, Phineas and Ferb

The Hero may be feeling under the weather, but the world isn't going to stop just so she can take a rest. She's going to have to haul herself up and get to work, either because she's simply that dedicated or because the latest situation is something only she can handle, healthy or not. Other characters may try to keep her in bed, but it's all in vain.


Naturally, this tends to put the hero at a handicap. If the mission involves stealth, she may find herself in need of an Anti-Sneeze Finger. Malfunction Malady could be invoked if the hero has powers or magic.

Compare I Can Still Fight!, for the Serious Injuries version and Pulled from Your Day Off for times character(s) have to come in to work despite being on break rather than being sick. Worf Had the Flu is a related trope where a Badass who suffers a lapse of badassery can claim some justifying excuse (such as illness) for her loss.

Sub-Trope of Sick Episode.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Cardcaptor Sakura episode "Sakura's Dizzy Fever Day", Sakura has a fever but tries to perform her school and Magical Girl duties anyway. She can barely do it with Syaoran and Meiling's help, and then passes out in bed. Good thing that Nadeshiko's ghost uses her own energy to help her a little.
  • The World God Only Knows has Keima getting sick due to staying out in the rain for too long. However, that doesn't stop Keima from pushing his agenda to awaken the last remaining Goddess hiding amongst the females he's interacted with; initiating a sick-home-visit event to have the female Goddess host visit Keima's house and take care of him while he's resting in bed.
  • Goku from Dragon Ball Z tried this when he was fighting Android 19 and sick with his heart virus. It didn't end so well. Granted, he didn't even realize he had the virus at that point of time and only started coming down during the middle of the fight.
  • The Sailor Moon R episode "Venus Minako's Nurse Mayhem" (or "No Thanks, Nurse Venus" in the original dub), in which an influenza epidemic strikes (perpetuated by the show's villains) and all the Sailor Senshi except Venus are infected with it. Sailor Moon is so weak from her illness that she is almost unable to perform her final attack.
    • A 90s anime episode (from the first season) has Rei down with a head cold, and Ami is shown trying to nurse her back to health. When Sailor Moon (who was still shaky in her role as a Senshi) winds up in troubled, Sailor Mercury and Mars (complete with a face mask) show up to help.
  • In episode 9 of Locodol, Yukari works the day hiding a fever. When she's finally found out she's forced to rest and let Nanako handle the last event. She spends the episode's second half in bed reminiscing about the day she first met Nanako.

    Comic Books 
  • Frequently happens to Spider-Man in the comics, most notably during the famous story in which Gwen Stacy dies.
    • On another occasion he fought Doctor Octopus while seriously ill. Octopus defeated him, unmasked him, and was convinced by Peter's classmates that Parker couldn't possibly be Spider-Man, especially given the feeble fight he'd put up, and he was just dressing up. Years later during Civil War, Peter reveals his identity, and Ock goes on a rampage at the realization that he'd not only been repeatedly defeated by a teen, but had known the truth for years.
  • Not even Superman is immune to this trope. He gets unexpectedly sick for a number of issues starting with a bad cough. The Parasite drains his powers and catches the infection too. Towards the end he develops a sickly green glow as he gets sicker but he doesn't have time to rest since Lois ends up missing. Turns it he was infected with some sort of kryptonite virus.
  • Invoked for considerable dramatic effect during the Batman storyline Knightfall. Bruce Wayne is already suffering from sleep deprivation and the flu when Bane engineers a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum... and is waiting for him when he finally staggers back into the manor.
  • In one installment of the comic strip FoxTrot, Jason comes to school with a cold and presents Miss O'Malley with what purports to be a note from his parents asking that he be allowed to remain in class. Miss O'Malley recognizes the note as a forgery and tells Jason to go home, but Jason begs to stay and at least be allowed to take the math test.
  • Another Batman example is from Batman: Noël, a Christmas Carol-inspired stand alone comic, where Bruce is suffering from pneumonia throughout the entire comic but still insists on staying out in the snow fighting crime.
  • In the Robin Series during Batman: No Man's Land Tim had a fight in the sewers with Ratcatcher that left him ill after ending up in the sewage with scratches and bites and having to deal with Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc while trying to get back on his feet.
    • Stephanie (Spoiler) picked up a 24 hour cold in Robin #102 which inconvenienced her the most when trying to talk to perps as her stuffy nose made her difficult to understand.

  • In the Sherlock Holmes fic 221B, Watson puts Holmes to bed and goes to the apothecary's for some influenza medicine. On the way, he ends up cornered by a gunman bent on vengeance. As he's about to shoot Watson, Holmes appears, shoots him, and lets Watson out of his bindings before collapsing.
  • In the Star Trek fanfic Step by Step, Kirk attempts to stay on the bridge as per orders, even though he is sick as a dog.
  • Paul does his Canalave Gym battle while suffering from a severe cold/flu in Travels of the Trifecta. He manages to win but faints right afterward.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Locke, the title character's cold is never explicitly addressed, but he chugs some cough syrup and blows his nose several times. This helps portray the difficulties the character is working through as he drives to his destination. It was thrown in because Tom Hardy just happened to have a cold while shooting.
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance: John has a hangover throughout the film.
  • Erin Brockovich does this at one point in the film even though she actually doesn't want to. In a sequence of Deleted Scenes, she finally collapses and has to be admitted to the hospital.

  • In Howl's Moving Castle Howl has to cast a difficult spell, go to a funeral in disguise, and fight the evil Witch of the Waste, all while he has a bad cold.
  • Stella tries doing this in one of the CSI: NY tie in novels, only to eventually pass out and require hospitalization.
  • Despite having a bad cold in The Woman Who Made Machines Go Haywire, and an out-of-control jinx, Iris is forced to head to work or face losing her job.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge has "a cold in his head" throughout the events of A Christmas Carol. This fact is only mentioned twice in passing, has no bearing on the plot (though it enhances the sense of chill and misery surrounding him), and is left out of most adaptations.
  • Garrett, P.I. has pursued cases while under-the-weather. It mostly doesn't slow him down, although he once had a narrow escape: he blew his nose and "hit the motherload" just in time to catch a whiff of smoke, alerting him that the building he was inside had been lit on fire.
  • Not "working," but "going on the tour of a lifetime": Charlie and the Chocolate Factory mentions in passing that Augustus Gloop has a cold on the day of the factory tour, which makes it all the more disgusting when he drinks with his bare hands from (and then falls into) the chocolate river being used to make candy for billions of people. This detail is so minor that most adaptations leave it out, but the 2004 stage musical Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka plays it up slightly, making his fall into the chocolate result from a Sneeze of Doom.
  • A tragic example in Run with the Wind during Day 1 of the Hakone Ekiden race. Shindo is struck with a bad cold due to overworking himself with the team's administration duties, but he refuses to withdraw from the race as it would mean Kansei University having to drop out altogether. He astonishingly manages to finish his section before collapsing, but his poor form leads to him being outrun by almost everyone previously behind him and the team falls to 20th place after Day 1. Everyone, from his team mates to his family back at home, is driven to tears when watching him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "The Death of the Party", Rob tries to feign healthiness so that Laura won't either scold or spurn him for ruining a party after she warned him about going out early in the morning. It works well enough for most of the evening, but he eventually collapses during "charades."
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Kimberly is sick with a cold during season 3's tripart opener, "A Friend In Need". She has to stay behind resting while the other rangers travel to Edenoi. However, Zedd and Rita send down a monster, forcing Kimberly to fight in spite of her illness. It's a tough fight, but the monster catches her cold and has to return to the moon so that Finster can cure it.
  • The Parks and Recreation episode "Flu Season". Leslie keeps working and insisting that she is not sick, despite being obviously ill to the point of having fever hallucinations.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer once ended up in the hospital in "Killed By Death", as a result of trying to fight Angelus while having the flu. However, a monster turns out to be preying on the children while she's there, and the flu ends up allowing her to see and fight it.
  • Supernatural: Played for Laughs In A Hero's Journey when Sam catches a cold due to him and Dean losing their plot armor.
  • In one episode of Head of the Class, Arvid has the flu, but refuses to stay home because it will disrupt the perfect attendance record he has maintained since kindergarten. As a result, the entire high school catches it, to the point where he is apparently the only person in the building by the end of the episode.
  • Piper does it twice on Charmed. In season 1 episode "The Wendigo", Piper is exhausted, feverish, and having dizzy spells at work, but stays in because, well, Piper's like that. In season 2 "Awakened", she's having coughing fits and "feels funky," but she stays at work until she collapses. Both situations are gross because Piper serves food.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "Carry On, Hawkeye" has everyone at the 4077th come down with the flu save Hawkeye, who's seemingly immune and thus left to run the O.R. practically by himself. Then he gets sick, but is forced to keep going.
  • Wheel of Fortune: Pat Sajak hosted two weeks of episodes from San Francisco in November 1996 despite coming down with laryngitis at the time. By the end of the week, his voice was nearly gone, so he and hostess Vanna White traded places in the Bonus Round.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the incredibly tough Detective Rosa Diaz plans to do this when she comes down with a cold while trying to make a breakthrough in a major case. It's subverted, however, since she ends up going hyper after taking too much cold medicine, then crashing and sleeping for ten hours straight, so doesn't manage to get a single useful thing done whatsoever. The other characters help out and get her the information she needs in the meantime.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Sleeping Dogs", Malcolm Reed is part of a team that investigates a disabled Klingon warship despite having a nasty head cold. It does come in handy, though, as his stuffy nose isn't affected by the reek on board.
  • ER had several instances of people doing this, though medical professionals of all people should know this is a dreadful idea. One especially bad example has Kerry refusing to let a flu-stricken doctor go home even though she's leaving because she's ill.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. When Tuvok experiences his pon farr he insists on manning Tactical in an emergency (incidentally one of the symptoms of pon farr is severe lack of judgment, so why The Captain allowed this is a mystery).
  • One episode of Barney Miller has Harris forced to come in with a bad head flu because half of the force has it even worse, leaving them with a severe manpower shortage. He makes no secret of how achy, tired, and miserable he is.
  • In the Decoy episode "Escape Into Danger," Casey is on sick leave with a cold. She still ends up investigating when her neighbor falls into an alcohol-induced coma and his wife disappears.
  • In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard goes on a mission while under the weather and his stuffy nose makes him the only one immune to the villain's mind control concoction.

  • Paul Harvey hosted several episodes of Paul Harvey's News and Comment and The Rest of the Story in the early 2000s despite a bout of pneumonia that left him sounding very rough. (He also zig-zagged this by letting others fill in for him.)

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • On The Simpsons, a Japanese worker goes to work despite having the flu, and coughs inside a box that's bound for Springfield. The flu ends up spreading throughout the town.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Batman comes down with a cold after being exposed to Mr. Freeze's ice ray. Still he has to go out and stop the villain (after all he's the God Damn Batman!) Alfred makes him take a thermos of chicken soup with him — which ultimately saves the day as Batman defeats Freeze by using the thermos to smash his containment suit's helmet.
  • Robo Cop The Animated Series: Robo gets a cold in "Project Desthspore" and goes back to work instead of letting the doctor take him offline to see why the cold's causing him to malfunction.
  • Defied in Spongebob Squarepants. When Spongebob is sick with an in-universe illness called The Suds, he attempts to drag himself to work anyway, but Mr. Krabs notices how sick he is and sends him home so he doesn't sneeze on the food.
  • Kim Possible: In "Sick Day", both heroes and villains work through the cold. Kim, Drakken, Ron, Shego and Duff Killigan all end up with colds as they take turns stealing an experimental ray back and forth from each other — none of them knowing what it does. Ultimately the ray gun gets destroyed and ironically it turns out it was designed to cure the common cold.
    • The episode also contains a couple of aversions. In the latter portion of the episode, Kim's mom insists that she stay in bed and rest, so Ron goes after the device by himself. He runs into Shego, who doesn't lift a finger to stop him, apparently because she's called in sick and is off the clock.
  • Ben 10 caught a cold in one episode, and his symptoms carried over into his alien morphs, clogging Wildmutt's heat sensors, giving Four-Arms a smelly rash, and changing Heatblast's powers from fire to ice. He took advantage of the latter, cooling down a nuclear reactor that was being attacked by villains.
  • In Time Squad, with Otto sick with a cold, Buck and Larry are forced to solve a mission without him; this doesn't work out because the two are clueless about American history and the signing of the Declaration of Independence and have to repeatedly go back to the satellite and ask Otto what to do next because they are so dependent on his knowledge. In the end they give up and drag a very sick Otto out to 1776 to have him recite the opening to the Declaration, where he then passes out from exhaustion.
  • Spider-Man loves this Trope, as it's been seen in several animated incarnations going back to "Horn of the Rhino" in 1967. Here we see both Sneeze of Doom and a Batman Gambit—a can of pepper borrowed from Aunt May's kitchen—to get Rhino also sneezing, just long enough to throw his attacks off.
  • Beautifully subverted in Phineas and Ferb, where hapless evil nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz calls the heroic organization that's supposed to be foiling him and tells them he's too sick to do anything evil that day. Equally-sick Major Monogram (who plays this trope straight) is outraged at this breech of professionalism and sends Agent P to get Doofenshmirtz up and running so he can do his job.
  • The Tick: Defied. Tick spends most of "The Tick vs. the Uncommon Cold" on the couch, and is implied to be waiting to get better before resuming patrols.
  • Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart: In the episode "Sick Mao", Mao Mao tries to do this, which is a problem when his job is being the sheriff and monster hunter for the town, worse when it's winter, and worst when it turns out the Monster of the Week is an ice dragon; all conspires to make it worse. Finally, he defeats the ice dragon through contagion, and then finally calls in sick for the next day.
  • How to Catch a Cold: Defied. The man wants to go to work, but Common Sense convinces him not to. Although, he did go to work earlier, while still sick with the same cold, and infect five coworkers, and a paperboy is seen working while sick with a cold.
  • Craig of the Creek: In "The Last Kid in the Creek," Kit gets a bad cold, but refuses to stop working at the Trading Tree or let anybody take over her post. This results in everybody in the creek catching her cold, except Craig who didn't eat anything from the stand.

    Real Life 
  • For many, staying home from their job due to a cold or other illness is something they cannot afford to do since they don't get paid for taking time off (unless the employer offers paid sick leave). Ergo, people that want to keep making money to pay the bills will go to work anyway, but they also risk getting everyone else at the job sick as well. The sick person may wear a face mask or bring some sanitizer to make sure they don't spread their illness. Some employers will encourage or even outright order a sick employee to stay home so that no one else gets sick and causes production to drop. Depending on the occupation, some people simply cannot stay home and must do their jobs anyway.


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