Warding Off The Con Flu
You have the best weekend of your life and then it hits: the dreaded con flu.
You're in a convention hall with hundreds or thousands of attendees, you're touching everything, everyone else is touching everything, someone came with the sniffles - it all leads to you catching some sort of cold. While most of the time the con flu is a light cold, there have been cases where people have caught something more severe. It's not convention exclusive, it can happen at music festivals and other events, but it's a well known side effect of attending a con.
We're not without hope! There are precautions you can take to help prevent you from getting sick, and they include some easy good-health habits.
Sidenote: If you are sick, or if you have something that is contagious such as influenza, pink eye, strep throat please stay home. Please please please stay home! Nobody wants you to be the typhloid mary of the convention, speading illness wherever you go.
The 5-2-1 RuleA simple rule for congoers: 5 hours of sleep (minimum), 2 meals (minimum) and 1 shower (minimum) a day. There are variations of this stating different sleep times (3-2-1), but the idea is the same. You're immune system can get thrown off at a convention because of the lack of sleep, the lack of good food and the germs from being to close to people and so the 5-2-1 rule helps you keep your immune system working.
Lack of sleep can actually make it easier for you to get sick, so the more sleep the better! Do your best to get a full night's rest before the convention happens, and follow it up by getting at least some sleep at the con; Ideally you want to sleep in a real bed.
It is so tempting to fuel yourself purely on a diet of snack food, coffee and energy drinks - but don't. Food fuels your body so you can enjoy the convention and so that it can fight off sickness. While any food may fill your stomach you don't want to skip the fruits and veggies. Here are some tips to help you get your meals in at a convention:
- Pack some small snacks (grapes, carrot sticks, trail mix) to snack on over the weekend.
- If you're sharing a hotel room, bring a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and other foods to share
- Use google maps to see what food areas are around the convention
- Bring some extra money to have breakfast at your hotel (this option is usually pricy)
- Plan to go out for dinner with a group of friends
- Ask on a con's forums or facebook page for recommendations on where to eat
If you're bringing snacks to the convention, keep in mind that people have allergies.
Washing is important because you don't want to be smelly, but showeing also helps you wash off any germs. If it's a popular con you've probably spent the day getting bumped and you can't (easily) wash the rest of your body in a bathroom sink!
Stay HydratedUnfortunately the 5-2-1 rule doesn't cover drinking water. Most conventions will have water placed around the event, so my rule of thumb is to have a drink every time you pass a water station. If you're walking back and forth you can cheat on the rule, but the point is to keep drinking at regular intervals. This becomes even more imporant when you're at a summer convention or in a mascot/full armor costume, you'll need the water to replenish any fluids you sweat out! Water is important for every function of the body, including setting up defenses against colds.
Mmmm, yesss. Delicious hydration.
Avoid TouchingAvoid touching your face, not just because it smudges makeup but because it introduces the germs on your hands to a bunch of entrances to your body: the eyes, nose and mouth! Wash your hands before touching your face, eating or taking out your contacts to lessen your chance of getting sick from something you touched.
Also avoid touching other people. Hugs, handshakesand high fives are common at conventions, some people go the entire weekend trying to get as many as they can, but it also leads to sharing of germs. If you're going to be participating in those activities make sure to wash your hands often and carry hand sanitizer. After the PAX Pox in 2009, attendees adopted using an elbow shake, first bump or other methods to replace handshakes and high fives in an effort to prevent the spread of con sickness.
Wash Your Hands & Use Sanitizer
Many people do not wash their hands properly, and those people are everywhere: touching elevator buttons, the stuff in the dealer's room, railings and door handles. Then you touch those things and pick up their germs - gross! One of the best ways to stop yourself from getting the con flu is to wash your hands properly, and often.
When should you wash your hands?
- Before and after eating or preparing food.
- Before putting in or taking out contact lenses
- At various intervals throughout the day, especially after handshakes, high fives or touching elevator buttons and railings.
- Before and after treating a cut, scrape or other wound
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose or coughing into your hands
- If they get dirty or touch garbage
- Before you touch your face. Especially your nose, mouth or eyes.
- Wet your hands
- Use soap
- Lather and scrub your whole hand for 20 seconds.
- Rinse for 10 seconds
- Dry Hands
- Turn off Tap
The process should take about 40 seconds, or the length of singing "happy birthday" twice!
Sanitizer comes in small bottles and is easy to carry around with you and some convention locations will also have sanitizer dispensing machines available. You can use santitizer to kill some types of germs that are on your hands when hand washing is not available, but it's not a replacement for properly washing your hands! If you're hands are visably dirty or greasy you need to use soap and water to clean them.
Also wash and sanitize your electronics. You touch something gross with your hand, touch your phone or camera, wash your hands and then touch your phone and camera again!
When you're low on cash you might decide to share a drink with friends to save money, but that's also a quick way to share germs! Think twice before sharing drinks from the bottle, use cups instead!
- Take an immune system boosting supplement
- Bring antibacterial wipes, to use when you need them
- Pack some medicine in case you get sick during the con, to help relieve symptoms
- Sneeze and cough into the bend of your arm, to prevent contaminating your hands