People working in the travel and hospitality industries are among the most likely to stay home because of a cold or flu, a survey has revealed.

According to the study by Beechams, 21% of respondents working in hospitality or travel had exaggerated their condition so they could stay in bed, while 44% had played up their illness to avoid going to work.

Contrary to general perceptions, more men than women fight a cold or flu. Most likely to battle on are men aged 45 to 55 living in Newcastle and working in manufacturing, while women aged 18 to 24 working in media and living in Nottingham, Brighton and London were least likely to go to work.

The survey also revealed some bizarre excuses for missing work, such as “my cat is depressed”, “my hamster died”, “a bird pooed on my head” and “Watford got relegated so I couldn’t face work”.