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5 Fundamental Hygiene Lessons From COVID-19 We Should Take Into Flu Season

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According to experts, it’s going to be a wild ride for flu season. CNN reported, “Many…believe that measures taken to help control coronavirus also prevented the spread of influenza.” 

Since 2010, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses. Though last year, it only accounted for a few thousand

But a lesson lies within every turbulent time. 

We learned that a continued focus on prevention hygiene versus aftercare can minimize virus spread with a concerted effort. 

Here are the key takeaways the hygiene industry learned firsthand with prevention and what’s to come:

Hygiene is Here to Stay

The hand-sanitizer category hit 10 times its pre-pandemic size, and since the vaccine rollout, the category has stabilized to two times the pre-pandemic size, demonstrating a continued focus on proactive protection. 

The pandemic made individuals question the hygiene of previous daily practices. Though there may no longer be the desire to disinfect every package before bringing it into the home, what we touch and who we share with deserves a second thought. 

For example, even though retailers, office buildings, and other commercial outposts reopen and mask mandates lift, communal spaces still regularly use sanitizer stations. More thorough cleaning procedures and protocols will also remain in place. 

Public Health

Public health will be examined from a wider lens, especially this upcoming fall and back-to-school season. 

Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Eili Klein states, “Far fewer people will be infected or exposed to the flu virus, and therefore won’t become immune to certain strains of the [flu]…the number of people who may have more severe infections next year is likely to be greater.”

Our lockdown has deprived us of exposure to everyday bacteria and viruses—as a result, our immune systems are not as robust as normal. We’ve seen this firsthand in my own household. While my 16-year-old son’s entire football team is vaccinated, most of the players have now come down with coughs and colds from pre-season practice.

Enclosed public spaces that see heavy foot traffic daily with a lot of close contact—think schools, airports, and mass transit—will also need to maintain stricter mandates to ensure less transmission of all viruses. 

Social Etiquette

Despite cravings for certainty again, social norms are up in the air with varying levels of comfort. In May, a CivicScience survey found that 40 percent of the U.S. population is still “somewhat concerned” with being in public spaces. Every aspect of how we interact, from how close you stand to the next person in line to removing candles off a birthday cake before blowing, will be up to personal preference and respecting the choices of others. 

Social protocols could be the most divisive issue among the general public as comfort levels vary greatly and new fears rise as variants emerge. 

How Consumers Shop

Instead of fear-driven purchases, we will see a new emphasis on treating hygiene as a premium self-care experience rather than a driver of killing germs. Retailers will play a key role in helping consumers create new habits versus promoting the consequences of hype and hysteria by carefully choosing which products to carry and promote. This is not unlike when many businesses choose to prioritize the health of consumers by discontinuing the sale of cigarettes.

Hygiene is here to stay, but consumers are shifting their mindset from a panic buying “must” to an “experience.” With normal merchandising standards resuming, it will no longer be acceptable to jump into a category with a substandard product. Consumers are savvier in deciphering ingredient labels and understanding the nuances of marketing buzzwords. 

Product Redesign

The FDA continues to recall hand sanitizers, some formulated with cancer-causing chemicals,  but even those deemed safe are leaving hands dry and prone to cracking, which leaves room for exposure to more germs. 

With panic buying ceasing, consumers are demanding quality products, not just whatever is available. We will see a wave of “out with the old and in with the new” in terms of goods that are not meeting new standards, forcing brands to rework offerings. The buyer shift will make room for emerging brands to become the darlings of outdated markets. 

We can expect changes to: 

  • Formulations: There will be a renewed focus on ingredients, sourcing, and sustainability, such as the brands featured in 10 Totally Tempting Natural Sanitizers.
  • Multi-benefit: “More is more” is no longer the mindset in our wellness and health routines. Consumers desire multi-benefit products that provide dual functionalities. 
  • Design: Product design will focus on the end consumer—how it fits into their lifestyle with portability and personalization through color options or fragrances. 

The pandemic was an unprecedented event where we learned on the fly and adjusted in real time. However, it’s important to reflect on how lessons can be incorporated to better support one another and the public as a whole. 

About The Author
Alastair Dorward

Alastair is the CEO of OLIKA, a clean hygiene brand. As the founding CEO of Method Products, he grew the iconic household brand from pre-revenue to more than $100 million in wholesale revenue. Under Alastair’sleadership, Method was also named California’s fastest-growing privately held companies by Inc. and was named one of the top 20 most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company.