Nicholas Parsons has branded the BBC "ridiculous" for disguising the reason he missed his first broadcast of Just A Minute after more than 50 years in the chair.
The 94-year-old radio presenter revealed that a bout of flu had kept him off the airwaves but the corporation had said it was because he had taken a couple of days off.
Listeners questioned whether it was "the apocalypse" when Parsons missed his first episode of the show, where panellists have to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition, since its inception in 1967.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I had flu. They wanted to say for some reason, the BBC gave out, that I had taken a couple of days off, which is ridiculous. In our profession you don't take days off. You are terrified someone is going to take the job from you."
He added: "I'm completely recovered. This happened about a month ago."
Regular contestant Gyles Brandreth filled in for Parsons during his absence.
Worried fans raised concerns on social media but the BBC's head of radio comedy, Julia McKenzie, assured listeners that Parsons was just enjoying a rare day off. She tweeted: "Just to reassure those listening to the very unexpected Just a Minute on @BBCRadio4 at the moment - the apocalypse is not upon us - @GylesB1 kindly stepped in to give Nicholas Parsons a couple of days off. NP is totally fine and is still the guvnor as per the last 50 years."
However, plenty of people still wrote messages online, saying that Just A Minute without Parsons felt like the end of the world.
One said: "The latest sign of the impending apocalypse. Nicholas Parsons is not in the chair for £justaminute."
Another posted: "Omg what happening. Nicholas Parsons isn't presenting £justaminute. End of days. @BBCRadio4."
"Somewhere, the captain of a nuclear submarine is trying to work out what it means when Nicholas Parsons isn't hosting £justaminute," said another.
One person suggested it was like "the ravens leaving the Tower of London".
McKenzie responded to some of the comments, assuring fans: "He's totally fine - we thought we'd allow him a day off after 50 yrs!"
She replied to another message by saying: "Yes don't worry he is fine and well - just a day off!"
Another tweet read: "NP is totally fine just taken a couple of days off - he's a 50 year perfect attendance record so we thought that was probably ok."
Parsons told Today he would continue to host the panel game "as long as I have got the energy to do it".