Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been stockpiling "must-haves" to protect themselves from the virus. Panicked shoppers across Jamaica cleared supermarket and pharmacy shelves of everything from household cleaning products to toilet paper. To help you buy sensibly amid this panic, here are three things you can probably leave on the shelves:

1) Masks: Medical experts advise that unless you are sick or coming into contact with someone who is, you probably don't need one. Further though, many of the masks people are purchasing are useless against the virus. Paper-thin or improperly placed, infected droplets can still easily find their way into your nose and mouth by penetrating the fabric and gaps. Mask or no mask, heed the Ministry of Health and Wellness' advice and keep at least one metre away from persons who are coughing or sneezing and keep your hands away from your face.

2) Latex gloves: As the MOHW has advised, the best way to prevent contracting this virus is washing or sanitizing your hands and surfaces regularly and properly. Latex gloves provide a sense of security; "it can't get me if it can't touch me". However, while latex gloves are essential for healthcare professionals, they're not up to the task for everyday life, tearing easily to let the germs in. Since the virus can stay on your gloves, you'll also need to wash them as often as you'd wash your hands, negating their point. Instead, follow the MOHW's advice: thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and resist the urge to touch your nose and mouth.

3) Vitamin C Supplements: When it comes to fighting upper respiratory infections, vitamin C is on everybody's must-have list. Studies show that while it doesn't impact these viruses directly, it does boost your immune system, and may help you get over these infections in less time. So, what makes vitamin C supplements a waste? With a proper diet, you can get all the vitamin C your body needs! One pawpaw or papaya alone can satisfy an adult's entire recommended daily intake, while one medium-sized orange can meet well over half. Only people with a specific deficiency need to supplement their vitamin intake. If you're already eating pawpaw or watermelon, drinking citrus juices or eating vegetables regularly, you're probably covered.

So, as you ward yourself and your family against COVID-19, think before you spend. Don't let panic get in your head and your wallet.

This article should not be used in lieu of medical advice. If you or someone you know begin experiencing symptoms, contact your doctor for further instruction.

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