ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT NERD FLU
Written by Angela May. Illustrations by Madison Reid.
In 2016 we sent a team of 7 to CES. All of them suffered almost a week of illness after the event… except me.
How did I survive? Do I have a hardened immune system, or some miracle cure? No. I survived because I’m a veteran of another nerd paradise: comiccon. I used to exhibit at seven shows per year, all over the country. In those circles the illnesses have affectionate nicknames like “con crud”, “pax pox” or just a vague “festival plague.” After getting sick over and over again, I developed the following strategy. Is it foolproof? Of course not, but I haven’t been struck with a plague in several years. Last year the team was begging me for my “secrets”, so here they are!
BEFORE THE SHOW
PRECHARGE your immune system.
The most important thing that you can do for your health is PREPARE it for battle. (And yes… as far as your immune system is concerned, this is a battle!) I usually kick off my “immunoboosting” regimen one week before the event.
– 1 full glass or Orange Juice every day
– Zinc tablets
– Vitamins (A multivitamin is probably fine)
– ALL OF THE VEGETABLES especially spinach
– Exercise as much as you can!
– Sleep as much as you can
I treat going to a convention kind of like going into the wilderness. Sure, you’re in the center of a well-stocked metropolis, but you’re also competing for scarce resources with thousands of others. Having materials “at the ready” will leave you ready to respond immediately to your body’s various health crises. When you’re overstimulated and stressed, you often suppress your body’s warning signals until they’re critical.
– Comfy shoes (walking walking walking standing)
– Stylish Backpack (save your shoulders!)
– Earplugs (conventions are LOUD and they are making you stressed even if you don’t realize it)
– Headphones (nothing can calm you down like your own tunes)
– Wet Wipes
– Sugar boost: Mangoes and Shot Blocks
– Protein boost: unsalted!! Cashews
– Your lunch (burrito – ready when you are, no utensils or touching required!)
– Water Bottle
– Battery Bank
– Watch (time, yo).
KNOW THAT YOU’RE PROBABLY GONNA LOSE YOUR VOICE
Even if you’re not sick, you will be using your voice longer and at a higher volume than you’re used to. I lose my voice frequently, and these are the best strategies I’ve found for preventing and coping with that.
– Stay hydrated. Above all else, lubrication will save your vocal chords. Try to stick with water. Avoid caffeine and sugar.
– Shots of espresso are your friend. Notice how I mentioned that caffeine is bad for your voice? I could hear you scoffing all the way over here… you can’t get away from caffeine at an event like CES! Enter… the espresso shot. Get all the caffeine you need without torturing your vocal chords. Added benefits: drink it faster and fresher, and less liquid means less trips to that beloved haven of germs… the washrooms.
– Green tea with honey is also your friend. You’ll be reaching for it day 2.
AT THE SHOW
FOLLOW THE RULES
– Every handshake. Avoiding handshakes altogether is a great practice, but social norms have overwhelming strength and you will forget.
– Every transaction involving money. Money is filthy, and I don’t just mean in a spiritual sense.
– Any interaction with public transit. Step off the train, step up the sanitizer.
– Every time you remember, because there is an instance of the previous rules that you’ve forgotten. Guaranteed.
– Wet wipes are great too. They’re less harsh on your skin than sanitizer and can help to wipe away the vaguely sticky buildup that will appear when you’ve sanitized a dozen times. I avoid the antibacterial kind, and they’re no substitute for a good scrub, but they can act as a stopgap if the washroom isn’t immediately accessible. (I default to sanitizer just for speed)
Don’t touch your face. It’s very difficult to avoid this as you do it without thinking, but every time you can consciously stop yourself from doing this is preventing a battle your white blood cells would have had to fight.
Wash your hands before every meal. Any time you sit down to eat, your first action should be to get right back up and scrub the crap out of your hands.
Don’t Share Drinks. This is another one that seems “obvious” but I see it SO OFTEN. Don’t share drinks… even with you friends! Even for “just a taste” to try that interesting-looking beer! Just don’t!!!
STAYING IN FIGHTING FORM
I can’t do enough to extoll the benefits of a good, calm, high-protein breakfast every morning. Ideally get outside and spend some time alone in the fresh air. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll go for a morning jog. Staying as close to your usual regimen as possible will help keep you in fighting form.
Always Try to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
– Drinking? Drink two full glasses of water before bed
– Earplugs, Eyemasks and Melatonin (you’ll be wired)
Prioritize Vegetables in your Meals. You’re not gonna want ‘em but… Choke down that salad before you tuck into the giant steak or whatever, trust me!!
Ok so you’re losing your voice. Didn’t you read what I wrote up there? What? You STILL went out for karaoke with that important client? Look I can’t protect you. Now that your voice is on its way out, you have to DOUBLE DOWN on the no caffeine or sugar rule.
– Lozenges help if your voice is “on its way out” but not out yet.
– If your voice is GONE gone, I recommend Cepacol spray. It’s harsh stuff– it will NUMB your throat– but it is an effective weapon of last resort.
Stressed? Try a bath. Your mileage may vary if you’re sharing a hotel room, but especially if you’ve been on a plane, a hot bath can do a lot to sink your stress in a short period of time.
So that’s more or less the battle plan.
A lot of these are “common sense” but in the heat of convention frenzy they can be especially difficult to remember. It’s when all of these “common sense” rules go out the window at once that illness has the opportunity to strike!