How to Avoid “Con Crud”

There’s no way around it – human beings are filthy, germ-spreading animals. We use our hands to touch everything, we sneeze and cough in public, and some of us simply have bad hygiene habits. All of this gets cranked up at comic book conventions like SDCC. Imagine 130,000 germ factories all squeezed into one place, side-by-side, for four and a half days and you’ll begin to see the importance of taking preventive measures.

At a mega-con like San Diego Comic-Con, everyone is too busy and too stressed to think about personal hygiene and proper manners, so it’s up to you as an attendee to make sure you don’t catch or spread any germs, otherwise known as “con crud.” It happens to the best of us, no matter how extreme your measures are, because there’s nothing you can really do if the person sitting next to you in Hall H sneezes on your face and you have to spend the next 8 hours pressed up next to them.

One of these Hall H attendees could be Patient Zero.
One of these Hall H attendees could be Patient Zero.

Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned some best practices to at least lower the chances of catching con crud. I personally follow each of these rules myself, so they’ve been through many real-world tests:

  1. Carry a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and use it religiously, before and after every handshake or at least every hour, on the dot.
  2. Don’t shake anyone’s hand. I know some people value being able to shake a celebrity or comic book creator’s hand, so if you must, please use hand sanitizer before and after. Or opt for a fist bump or an old timey tip o’ the hat.
  3. Buy a bottle of Airborne chewable tablets and pop them throughout the day. They won’t cure an existing cold, but all that easily-consumable vitamin C will go a long way of keeping your immune system up. Much easier than dissolving a packet into a tall glass of water and drinking it. Just pop one in your mouth and go – they actually taste pretty good.
  4. Drink lots of water. Carry a reusable water bottle and always drink throughout the day to stay hydrated. It’s easy to get distracted and go a full day without drinking any water, so do your body a favor and stay hydrated – take sips even if you’re not thirsty. Related: avoid sodas and energy drinks – all that sugar just slows your body down and dehydrates you faster. Water is the absolute best thing you can drink.
  5. Don’t forget to eat! Pack a few granola or energy bars, and some hard fruit like apples (no one likes finding a squished banana in their bag). Avoid eating fast food, fried food or processed food. The more all-natural energy you give your body, in addition to water, the better off you’ll be. This isn’t just con advice, this is life advice!
  6. Don’t share your food. I know, we’ve all be taught that “sharing is caring,” but in this case you don’t want anyone getting their dirty hands all over your food. An easy way to avoid sharing is by not having any shareable food like trail mix or jerky. It’s a lot easier to share a bag of snacks than it is an apple.
  7. If you hear someone cough or sneeze near you, evacuate that area right away if you can. This will be more difficult if you’re sitting next to someone during a panel, but if you’re out on the expo hall floor and you hear someone sneeze, walk in the opposite direction and don’t look back. This may seem a bit extreme but the odds are in your favor if you move away from germs and not towards them.
  8. Carry a pack of tissues. Keep these on hand if you need to cough or sneeze, but also to offer to someone if they need it. As mentioned in the last rule, if someone near you sneezes and you can’t get away, just offer them a tissue – it’s polite and reminds them to cover their mouths.
  9. Get some sleep. I didn’t say “a full night’s rest” because I know how impossible that is (hi Hall H campers!) but try your best to at least get uninterrupted, comfortable sleep. Your body needs to rest and recuperate after each long day, and if you start the next day tired, your immune system will be weakened.
  10. Take a shower. This may seem obvious, but stay clean and shower daily. Not only is it good personal hygiene, you’re also doing everyone else a favor by not smelling like…you haven’t showered in days.
  11. Wear a surgical face mask. This is a very extreme example, and the one I admittedly have not done myself, but it’s worth mentioning. Wearing a face mask is a great way of keeping your germs out of people’s faces, as well as keeping you from inhaling germs. You may even be able to incorporate it into your cosplay!
  12. Don’t go. Even more extreme, if you really don’t want to catch con crud, then don’t attend a con. But I know you do want to attend every con you can, so all the more reason to follow these tips to ensure you don’t get con crud! Keep in mind that you can still catch con crud even if you follow all these tips, but the chances of it happening will be far less than if you ignore them all.

These tips have kept me relatively con crud-free, and I hope you take them seriously. What other tips do you have to avoid germs at cons?

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