Retailers go for the whole hog with the H1N1 craze

What’s the best way to be protected from H1N1? Well, the vaccine, but that’s not a choice for everyone because of limited supplies, time constraints or personal beliefs.

On the next errand run, picking up some hand sanitizer, vitamin C, antioxidant-rich juice, multivitamins and a stockpile of over-the-counter drugs might ease that panicked state of mind.

Is it obsessive, or just survival of the fittest, when we’re buying into having hand sanitizer everywhere we go, drinking expensive health drinks to keep our immune systems up and arming ourselves with Lysol to kill germs like we would hordes of enemies in a video game?

Sure, it’s nice to think we can buy a sense of protection and be fashionable while doing so. Corporations simply love it when we buy up their stocks of cranberry-lavender scented hand sanitizer or vitamin waters named “B-Relaxed” and “Sync.” As Marge Simpson put it, “It’s like drinking e.e. cummings!”

There’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself with whichever means are available, but we’re falsely equating consumption with protection.

Retailers are jumping on the swine bandwagon, and benefitting greatly from the public’s nerves, but ultimately the panic is unnecessary.

Hand sanitizer alone won’t protect you from the guy a seat away in lecture coughing and sneezing his brains out. It might make you smell good, though, depending on which fruity scent you picked.

Likewise, drinking a Jamba Juice smoothie with an immunity boost probably means nothing if, afterward, you eat from a communal bowl of chips at a crowded party.

Money alone can’t buy good health — you have to make lifestyle changes. Hand sanitizer and fruit smoothies are not substitutes for eating balanced meals and getting the right amount of sleep necessary to maintain our immune systems.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Clorox reported a 23 percent increase in net income last week — worth $157 million — driven by the spike in demand for its disinfectant products. Similarly, hand sanitizer sales are up 70.5 percent from this time last year.

It’s oddly disturbing to think there’s a market benefit to the pandemic. It’s great to have those products on hand, but it doesn’t equate to avoiding crowded areas or staying home when beginning to feel nauseous, the smart moves to take when fighting H1N1.

In the state of social panic over H1N1, it’s wiser to listen to common sense and medical science over the industry.

Maintaining a healthier lifestyle to fight H1N1 requires a calm approach, not a panicked one. Today’s society is already filled with enough panic, and we don’t need any more apocalypse nuts roaming the streets after watching 2012.

The World Health Organization has declared nearly 6,500 swine flu deaths, a number it thinks low-balls the reality.

Don’t start running at those numbers though — do the smart thing. Check for symptoms and use proper precautionary measures.

The marketers capitalize on the state of panic by offering “solutions” at a price. Hand sanitizer for $5? A smoothie for $4? A bottle of multivitamins for $10? Sure, they’re not exactly exorbitant prices, but buying these things incessantly adds up to a lot of money and can lead to a false sense of security.

It’s okay to buy those fruity hand sanitizers as long as we’re making the right lifestyle changes to go along with it and not ignoring the vital signs. Got a fever and a stomachache? See a doctor and don’t go to class. Don’t just drink a Jamba Juice, take a multivitamin and go to class with that headache.

Personal stockpiling will only be reminiscent of those silly Y2K doomsday prophecies — the right step is to think rationally and take protective steps each day, instead of buying one backup plan.

Fruity scents aren’t bad things — go ahead and splurge on the cutely marketed bottles of hand sanitizer and soaps if it’s fitting. It’s smarter to save money on generic brands of soap, washing every so often and keeping a healthy lifestyle while avoiding high-risk environments. Be skeptical about these “protective” products because they are not cure-alls or surefire measures — what’s key is a calm, not panicked, approach to living a H1N1-free life, which involves eating and sleeping right, and, above all else, watching out for symptoms as they arise.

A bottle of Vitamin Water isn’t a smart substitute to seeing a doctor when you’ve got a flu-like symptom. Believing in “buying” a healthy H1N1-free lifestyle is just as bad as believing the Mayans were right in predicting the world will end in 2012 — panic solves nothing.

Victor Luo is a junior majoring in creative writing.