Stay home if you’re contagious. That’s the current advice from doctors. Decades ago, when most working people lived paycheck to paycheck, people went to work sick. Even bragged about it. You were tough and maybe even heroic to ignore your misery and punch the time clock. Employers made things worse, docking people for too many sick days. Perfect attendance translated to the perfect employee. TV advertisements for various cold medicines bolstered this mentality. First, you saw a man coughing and sneezing before taking the advertised pill. Hours later, he would be pictured at work. Even today, pharmaceutical commercials promote the idea of masking your symptoms and soldiering on. That’s how TV ads help spread viruses.
Last week, I sat in a car dealership for two hours while my car was being repaired. It was a lovely waiting room, with comfortable lounges, computers, WiFi, free coffee and snacks. Luckily, I’d brought my kindle, while others were stuck with cell phone trivia. The man across from me had a cough, and I prayed my immune system was up to speed.
By the next afternoon, I felt lethargic and thought maybe the cold weather had worn me out. But the next day, I knew what had happened. I’d caught a cold. And I knew exactly how. Just as it happens so often, when you go to a movie, and someone behind you is coughing or sneezing. Why do people do this? Why is it socially acceptable to go out in public when you ought to stay at home?
I’m thinking of the latest pharmaceutical ad for a cold remedy. It’s a commercial I actually enjoy. First, the man is seen sneezing and looking miserable. Suddenly, he takes the advertised capsule. Fast forward to a treadmill, where he’s doing a little dance routine. He’s smiling happily. But what about the other people in the workout room who’s breathing in his contaminated air?
Outwardly, he appears to be perfectly healthy. He’s not sneezing or spreading his cold virus through coughing. Nevertheless, he has a cold or the flu. And he’s filling the air around him with the virus he’s carrying. Recent studies have shown that we can get infected by the flu virus simply by breathing the same air as a carrier.
Who benefits when the cold and flu season is at its peak? You guessed it, Big Pharma. This year, their profits must be soaring. Why should they want sick people to stay home? More cold and flu in the population means more sales. This is why you see aisles full of cold and flu remedies in pharmacies. It’s probably the most profitable game in town during the flu season.
Television ads encouraging sick people to mask their symptoms and leave their house should be banned. TV ads help spread cold and flu viruses