Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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December 15, 2008

Oswego County Health Department Offers Tips for the Flu Season

You wake up one morning with the sniffles, and you may just not feel good. Your first thought may be, do I have a cold or is it worse, the flu? Both are very contagious. Sometimes a bad cold may seem like a mild case of the flu. Influenza, which is more frequently referred to as the “flu,” is a serious illness that can have life threatening complications unlike your common cold.

How can you tell the difference between the common cold and the flu?

The Oswego County Health Department suggests you use this chart to determine the difference between cold and flu.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How can you prevent a common cold and flu from coming on?

The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year. Other helpful tips to help preventing both are to wash hands frequently. Wash hands before you eat, after you cough or sneeze, when you're around sick people, after you use the bathroom, etc.

“The CDC recommends that you wash your hands for at least 15 to 20 seconds; think singing the whole alphabet song in your head,” said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Public Health Director for the Oswego County Health Department. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizer works great if your hands are not visibly dirty. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your arm opposite of your elbow. Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too.”

What should you do if you have the cold or flu?

The first thing to remember is that neither can be cured by an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Colds, flu and most sore throats are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can do more harm than good. The CDC reports that there has been a rise in antibiotic overuse which is increasing the amount of drug resistant bacteria.

So, instead of rushing to the doctor's office, try these easy tips.

  • Increase fluid intake

  • Use a cool mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion

  • Soothe throat with ice chips, sore throat spray or lozenges (for older children and adults)

  • Stay home if you're sick, and get plenty of rest

  • Relieve aches and pains with acetaminophen according to package instructions

  • Viral infections may sometimes lead to bacterial infections. Patients should keep their doctor informed if their illness gets worse or lasts a long time.

The Oswego County Health Department offers flu vaccine for those aged 6 months and older.

The administered vaccine costs $35 for adults and $20 for children 18 years of age and under. Those with Medicare should bring their cards and the health department will bill Medicare. Those with Medicaid should bring their cards and there will be no charge. A reduced fee is available to those with limited incomes. No one is turned away due to their inability to pay.

For more information or to make an appointment for a flu shot call the health department at 349-3547 or visit the county Web site at www.oswegocounty.com.

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