Why is there an obsession with toilet paper? In grocery stores, Walmarts, Targets and Costcos around the country, toilet paper is disappearing off the shelves in record fashion. Many people even end up buying enough to last them the next six months. While it is important for citizens to prepare for the worst, explosive diarrhea is not a symptom of coronavirus and toilet paper is not one of the essential products. But it’s what happens when panic overtakes reason.

When concerns were raised about the coronavirus, I wasn’t all that worried. There are dozens of labs worldwide working towards a vaccine and/or treatment for this disease. But as the weeks went on and the infection rate started to grow, I made the decision that it was probably a good idea to stock up on some nonperishable food items just to makes sure that if quarantine was ordered I was prepared.

Toilet paper was not one of my major concerns.

After all, you need food and water to survive. Toilet paper, not so much.

While it is important to have the product for hygiene purposes, millions around the globe operate every day without that precious three-ply of soft paper. There would be other options, some better than others, for maintaining an immaculate posterior.

However, it seems like in recent days panic has overtaken reason. All across the world, toilet paper is selling out. From Australia to the United States, people are stocking up on those precious rolls. Last night, I went to a local Safeway grocery store and took a picture of the barren toilet paper aisle. Though I knew that it was foolish and most likely all in my head, I made the inexplicable decision to grab a box of tissues, “just in case.”

This is what happens when mob mentality rules. People see one person doing it and then everyone want to do it. There’s no real rhyme or reason, because after all most toilet paper is made in the United States and not China. For many health professionals, there is a concern that China could halt or limit supplies of health care items like masks, gloves and certain ingredients found in medicine. That is truly a concern. 

Having a year’s supply of toilet paper won’t really mean anything if someone dies from being unable to get their routine medicine because of international tensions. 

Here’s what authorities are telling Americans that they should have on hand:

  • Food that can last at least two weeks if not more. Frozen and nonperishable food items are best.
  • Prescription medications, especially for the elderly, that can last at least a month. Also get some over the counter medications for aches and pains, colds, stomach and whatever else may be applicable.
  • Gatorade or something similar to help with electrolyte imbalance if you do get sick.
  • Cleaning supplies, to clean up things that are touched a lot to prevent the spread of the disease.

It’s incredibly important to prepare for a worst-case scenario, but I think in a couple years we’ll look back at the mass buying of toilet paper with a bit of an eyeroll and a good giggle.