Gaming, Cosplay, and Con Crud, Oh My!

It’s time for PAX West, a convention for the gaming community and one of the largest events hosted at the Washington State Convention Center in Downtown Seattle. PAX – which stands for Penny Arcade Expo – was first held in Bellevue in 2004 and had approximately 3,300 people in attendance. PAX is now a general term used to refer to a series of gaming culture festivals held all over the globe that involve tabletop, arcade, and video gaming as well as some epic cosplays. PAX West opens on Friday and will bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Seattle. Be prepared for legions of cosplayers and badge wearers in downtown, even if you aren’t attending.

So… what is “con crud”?pax2017

“Con crud” is an artificial term that refers to the common cold, mild flu, or other non-threatening illness that may strike towards the end of a convention, or soon after leaving. You might have also heard it called PAX pox, festival plague, or even nerd flu.

Conventions are a prime place for disease to spread: large crowds in confined spaces; lack of proper hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, like covering coughs; lowered immune responses from travel, stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and inadequate hydration; alcohol consumption; and – in the case of a gaming convention – many shared devices being touched by hundreds of people (controllers, keyboards, mice, headsets, tablets, etc.).

At PAX in 2009, there was an outbreak of H1N1 (around 100 confirmed cases) that contributed to the national outbreak that was spreading throughout the country.

So what can you do to prepare?

Let’s review some ways to avoid the convention plague known as “con crud”:

  • Sleep and eat well – Immune systems don’t work as well when you’re low on sleep, snacking on junk, and not drinking enough water.
    • Every convention day, try to follow the 5-2-1 rule at a minimum: Get at least 5 hours of sleep (8 hours is ideal), eat at least 2 meals (3 is better), and take 1 shower.
    • Pack some healthier granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, and other health-friendly snacks to avoid having to eat from vending machines all the time.
    • Remember to drink lots of water.
  • Hand washing/sanitizing – Finding a bathroom or hand sanitizing station can be difficult, especially after waiting in line for hours for that rad game demo or popular panel. Wash your hands (soap + warm water for at least 20 seconds) when you can (but definitely before eating and after using the bathroom). Bring your own hand sanitizer to use before/after getting your hands on that controller or keyboard.
  • Watch your alcohol intake – If you will be imbibing some brews or booze, keep in mind that alcohol can impair the immune response. Alcohol can also increase the risk of injury and accidents – avoid driving after alcohol consumption.
  • Take a break – If possible, take an extra day off as a rest day after your last day of attendance.