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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 they can take a rest. They're going to have to haul themselves up and get to work, either because they're simply that dedicated or because the latest situation is something only they can handle, healthy or not. Other characters may try to keep them in bed, but it's all in vain.

Naturally, this tends to put the hero at a handicap. If the mission involves stealth, they may find themselves in need of an Anti-Sneeze Finger. Malfunction Malady could be invoked if the hero has powers or magic. If their biggest concern is other characters coaxing them back to bed, they might try Feigning Healthiness.

Alternatively, a character may try to get themselves sick, only to have to go to work anyway.

Truth in Television for some Workaholic types or if the boss says it's absolutely necessary to come to work that day. However, it's normally discouraged as the potential to infect other workers and lowered performance can make the sick employee more of a liability. Even more discouraged today than it used to be due to the COVID-19 Pandemic heightening awareness of protecting others from sickness.

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 their loss. Commonly seen in those Obsessed with Perfect Attendance, who refuse to miss a day of work or school even if they really should stay home. See also Feigning Healthiness.

Sub-Trope of Sick Episode.


Examples

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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.
  • Dragon Ball: Goku 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.
  • 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.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In 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.
    • Episode 19 of 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.
  • 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.

    Asian Animation 
  • Flower Fairy: In Season 4 episode 5, Xia An'an is one of the victims of a flu epidemic spreading across the town, and she has to stay in her bedroom to recover. Later, her friends are overpowered by an evil fairy, forcing An'an to use her Magical Girl powers to save them despite still being ill.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Invoked during 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.
    • Batman: Nol is 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 Batman: No Man's Land, Tim Drake 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 Brown picked up a 24 hour cold in Robin (1993) #102 which inconvenienced her the most when trying to talk to perps as her stuffy nose made her difficult to understand.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Frequently happens, most notably during /The Night Gwen Stacy Died
    • 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 (2006), 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.
  • Superman:
    • The titular hero 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.
    • In The Last Days of Superman, Kal-El gets infected with an incurable Kryptonian disease. Even so, he attempts to carry out his most important tasks, but he collapses before finishing the first of them, and Supergirl and his other allies must take over for him.
    • In The Leper from Krypton, Superman attempts to keep operating as a hero even though his highly contagious disease is killing him.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: In one strip, 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stella tries doing this in one of the CSI: NY tie in novels, only to eventually pass out and require hospitalization.
  • In Danger: Boober Cooking, a picture book based on Fraggle Rock, Boober gets drenched in pond water and catches a cold halfway through the story, but continues with gathering the ingredients for his souffle anyway.
  • 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.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, this is Enforced on the Marthas, as when a Martha is viewed as "past her prime", she is sent to die a slow, painful death in the Colonies. Offred recalls how Rita was sick with the flu and collapsing around the house, but still had to act as though she was alright and did her duties as best she could. This is in comparison to the Wives, who get so bored they sometimes pretend to be sick so their friends will come over and take care of them.
  • 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.
  • 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 teammates to his family back at home, is driven to tears when watching him.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show:
    • Defied in "The Meershatz Pipe". Rob gets the flu. He tries to go in to work, regardless of how horrible he's feeling. However, Laura forcibly keeps him in bed. When he sneaks out while she's asleep, Mel pulls rank and sends him home before he can jeopardize Alan's health. All the time, the others keep telling Rob that he should stay home until he recovers.
    • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: Melani's subplot in episode 17 and early episode 18 is her insisting to go to work despite catching cold. Eventually, she is told to rest at home off-screen and becomes healthier in the second half of episode 18.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural: Played for Laughs In "A Hero's Journey" when Sam catches a cold due to him and Dean losing their Plot Armor.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Justified in "The Naked Now", when Dr. Crusher still works on her cure for the disease that makes the victim uninhibited despite being infected. She may have been infected, but she was the only one qualified.
      • In "The Battle" Picard insists on continuing to work despite increasingly severe headaches which unknown to him are being caused by the Ferengi Bok using a thought maker on him.
    • 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 probably the only reason The Captain allowed this is because he lied and claimed it was the flu instead).
    • 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.

    Radio 
  • 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.)

    Sports 
  • In several competitive sports this kind of attitude is praised, in the sense that "playing hurt" is considered a virtue depending on the extent of injuries. There have been multiple instances during the Stanley Cup Finals where players have played with injuries like broken ankles, hiding their injuries until after the competition is over. It's helped along by teams reporting the bare minimum description of player injuries as "upper body" or "lower body" and that's it, apparently to try to hide such points of weakness from the opposition who might try to deliberately target those points for physical play if they knew.
  • The 1979 Cotton Bowl between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Houston Cougars became known as the "Chicken Soup Game" after Notre Dame senior quarterback Joe Montana played despite coming down with the flu the day of the game, coupled with unusually cold weather in Dallas where the game was played just after a bad ice storm — game time temperature was 22°F (-5°C) with a wind chill of -6°F (-21°C). Notre Dame fell behind 20-12 at halftime, when Montana was given a bowl of chicken soup to eat to fight off hypothermia. Houston built their lead to 34-12 in the third quarter when Montana returned to the field, and in the fourth quarter Notre Dame scored 23 unanswered points for the come-from-behind 35-34 victory.
  • Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals is known as the "Flu Game" after Michael Jordan played through it with the best-of-seven series tied at 2-2 while sick with food poisoning (his symptoms looked more like the flu, hence the name despite being the wrong illness). Jordan led all players with 38 points scored and the game was a 90-88 Bulls victory, the end of which TV cameras caught Jordan collapsing into teammate Scottie Pippen's arms.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: Akane came to work with a fever. Kuroki, the assistant manager tries to send her home but she insists on working. He relents on the condition that she wear her mask. This earned an complaint from a customer since she was coughing and sneezing frequently. Tsutsuji tries to get her to stop coughing openly but she doesn't listen because she is a part timer. Eventually Kuroki contacts the manager, Akamatsu to take her home.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Defied in an episode of Caillou, where Caillou wants to go to preschool with the flu, but his mother doesn't let him.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Bug Off", despite having a cold, and both Wheeler and Gaia advising her to stay behind so that she doesn't infect the rest of the team, Linka insists on coming on the mission, using one of Ma-Ti's herbal remedies to cope.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • La La Loopsy: In "Spot-itis", several characters have spots on their skin, which Rosie dubs "spot-itis". When she gets spots on herself too, she keeps working in an attempt to Find the Cure!. Subverted, however, as it turns out that they weren't really sick and it was just paint.
  • The Loud House: In "Sister Act", Lola tries to ribbon dance at a pageant while stricken with a cold, but is too lethargic to do the dance correctly.
  • 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.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "Rad's Alien Sickness", a bioweapon developed by Prof. Venomous gives K.O. and his co-workers Rad and Enid nasty colds. Enid and K.O. go home early and recover, but Rad stubbornly insists on trying to work through the cold because he's close to stacking his one-millionth box. When Enid and K.O. come in to work the next day, they find Rad collapsed in the stock room, sicker than ever, and desperately try to cure him.
  • 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 breach of professionalism and sends Agent P to get Doofenshmirtz up and running so he can do his job.
  • PJ Masks: In "Gekko's Stay-at-Home Sneezes", Gekko, despite catching a cold, still wants to help Catboy and Owlette retrieve the first issue of the Flossy Flash comic from Luna Girl.
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons: In "Marge In Chains", 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.
  • Spider-Man loves this trope, as it's been seen in several animated incarnations.
    • Spider-Man (1967): In "Horn of the Rhino", a can of pepper borrowed from Aunt May's kitchen is used to get Rhino also sneezing, just long enough to throw his attacks off.
    • The Spectacular Spider-Man: In the second season premiere, Spidey manages to beat Mysterio while also coming down with a cold.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Defied. 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. Unfortunately for Krabs, the customers overhear that SpongeBob came in to work sick and leave in a panic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • WordGirl: In "Chuck E. Sneeze," WordGirl is sick with a cold, but still has to go out and stop Chuck from committing a robbery. He admonishes her for going out while she's sick, especially since he ends up catching her cold, but she retorts that she wouldn't have to go out if he wasn't committing crimes.

 
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