So, you’re heading to DrupalCon this year - awesome! (Or maybe another huge conference). If it’s not your first time, you know that something you’re likely to bring home with you along with the swag, business cards, and a bunch of new Drupal knowledge is the dreaded DrupalFlu. This is a nasty cold that seems to strike almost everyone after - or even during - a huge conference like DrupalCon. Put that many people in one place and you’re bound to get sick.
I’ll never forget missing half of DrupalCon Portland 2013 because I managed to get sick by Wednesday and was curled up in my hotel room, drinking cold medicine and orange juice and being miserable. Things I learned that week included: Portland is a terrible place to get a cold. You can’t get Sudafed without a prescription. So if you’ve been ingesting cold medicine all week in a desperate attempt to feel better, you can swab positive for explosive residue by the TSA. And you never want to fly with clogged ears. Trust me.
If none of this sounds fun, never fear - I’ve developed a method that has kept me well for several DrupalCons as well as many smaller conferences!
Step 1: Preparation
Get a flu shot. If you haven’t yet gotten a flu shot this year, go get it. It takes a couple weeks to kick in, so don’t wait til right before you leave. Whether or not The Flu is what’s going around, don’t risk it.
Buy a box of sanitizing wipes (I like these) and some hand sanitizer. I like to get a handful of the little travel bottles and put them on my purse and my backpack. Just make sure you have enough sanitizer to get you through the week - more than one little travel bottle, for sure.
Consider taking an immune supplement before, during, and after the conference. They may be a bunch of hooey, but if confidence boosts my immune system, I’ll take it.
Step 2: Avoidance
Here’s where you need to start thinking like a germaphobe. From the moment you leave your house, think about what you touch. Don’t touch anything and then touch your face. Don’t touch anything and then eat without cleaning your hands. Try to avoid shaking hands where possible. This is really hard, and I’ve been trying to do it for years. The best I can do sometimes is be conscious that I shook someone’s hand, and make sure I wash or sanitize my hands. Also, be mindful of your own germs - if you sneeze or cough, make sure you do it into your elbow!
Step 3: Decontamination
Keep up the germaphobe thinking. I don’t mean this lightly or to make fun of germophobia - to keep from getting sick, you have to be afraid of germs. And don’t worry about looking weird. You won’t be the only one, and you won’t feel weird when you’re not sick later! Here’s what to do with those wipes and sanitizers:
Wipe down your devices and hands at the start of every session. Thoroughly wipe your phone, your laptop keyboard - anything you touch.
Wipe your table space and hands before you eat.
If you carry a water bottle - sanitize it throughout the day.
Wash/sanitize your hands throughout the day.
On planes/trains - wipe your seat area and tray, as well as your hands, your device, and anything else you touch.
Step 4: Mitigation
It can be easy to forget to drink a lot of water when you’re away from home, so don’t skimp on that, especially if you’re partaking in evening conference fun. Make sure you’re eating decently, too. And not to be a killjoy, but if you are drinking heavily each night of the conference, do be aware that you’re not doing your immune system any favors - and you’re probably not being careful about germs, either.
Rest as much as you can - this can also run contrary to conference fun, but try to find a balance! Of course it’s a once a year event, but do try to get some sleep in - or at least a quality nap. Lack of sleep will leave you vulnerable to illness as well.
If you do start to get sick, these last two tips are pretty important.
I hope these tips help you to stay well - it’s a germy world out there! If you do get sick, don’t despair. Get some soup, some of those nice soft lotion-infused tissues, stay hydrated, and catch up on DrupalCon session videos from your couch.
What are your best tips for staying healthy at conferences? Let us know on Twitter @ChromaticHQ!