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Dec. 29, 2006

Health Department Launches 'Sneeze into Your Sleeve' TV Campaign

This winter you may notice people sneezing and coughing into their sleeve or the bend of their arms rather than their hands when they don't have a tissue. It may look strange at first, but public health professionals say it's a better way to sneeze and cough that doesn't spread cold and flu germs.

“The new lesson that health officials are teaching, for those who don't have a tissue handy, is to 'sneeze into your sleeve,'” said Kathleen Smith, Director of Public Health Services for the Oswego County Health Department. “The same goes for coughing. That way, cold and flu germs don't get transferred from people's hands to keyboards, door knobs, stair railings or other items. Many school kids have already learned to do this, but most adults haven't heard that message.”

Television ads that show how germs are spread when people don't cough or sneeze properly are airing on stations across New York State over the next few weeks, including the Syracuse and Watertown markets. The New York State Health Department is sponsoring the ads, along with public service announcements over several local radio stations.

Many adults grew up being taught to sneeze and cough into their hands when they didn't have a tissue.

“Covering our mouths kept the germs from spreading into the air - - but not by spreading from our hands,” said Smith. “That's why the state and local health departments are reminding adults to sneeze and cough into the bend of their elbow, not their hands, when a tissue isn't handy. It's a courteous and simple way to keep our germs to ourselves.”

To help stop the spread of germs, especially during this flu and cold season health officials also suggest:

  • Put your used tissues in a wastebasket.

  • Stay home if you think you have the flu. If you must go out in public, such as to seek medical care, wear a surgical or procedure mask.

  • If you do happen to sneeze or cough into your hands, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands. Your hands might look clean, but they carry germs that could make you or someone else sick.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Carry an alcohol-based hand rub, also called a hand sanitizer, to use when you have no soap or water handy. Choose a product with at least 60 percent alcohol.

  • Besides always washing your hands after sneezing or coughing or using a tissue, wash your hands after using the bathroom; after being near someone who is ill; after touching handrails, door knobs or other things handled by people; before and after eating and drinking; before and after handling food; and after handling garbage or trash.

“Practicing these simple actions will help you and your family stay healthy during this cold and flu season,” said Smith.

People who would like educational materials on how to stay well during the flu season may call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.


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