In 2017 at PAX East, the year of the storm, I caught PAX Plague and I caught it bad. The common cold, amplified by the power of tens of thousands of gamers from around the world. Was I dying? Would I ever make it back to the UK? Was this my last PAX ever? Staying on an inflatable mattress in a friend’s apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I vowed never to make the same mistakes that had led to such a disastrous outcome again.

And so I present to you:

An Englishman’s Guide to Avoiding that Unpleasant American Illness


How to Avoid the PAX Pox

AKA Con Flu, Con Crud, Joypadis Pertussis, Expo Hex Tho (probably not the last two)

I am here to keep you well, the hygienic angel on your shoulder.

Your comic con angel, on your shoulder

This should go without saying and fortunately the crowd at PAX East is pretty great at managing basic hygiene. The restrooms are also always busy so the added societal pressure certainly helps. BUT! Don’t solely wash them after you’ve been to the restroom. You’ll be in contact with people, joypads, keyboards, mice, dice, and more. If you see an opportunity wash those hands without incredulity. And before you eat. Lots of hand based food at conventions, so make sure those hands aren’t shovelling international nerd germs into your mouth.


After EVERY game. People from around the world are bringing their local diseases to Boston and you want to smite the viruses and bacteria back from whence they came. Joypads and mice become slick with sweat, skin, and bacteria.

Also, hand san up before you eat.


Not ‘adult VR’ but unclean VR headsets. If you’re trying out some 3D action, make sure the headset has been cleaned before you don it. Any decent exhibitor will give it a wipedown so you can avoid getting the previous player’s sweat near your eyes.

Especially beware of VR in grungy bars

Eyes are an easy route in, and the halls can get dry with heavy-duty air conditioning. Dry eyes mean you’ll be rubbing and touching them more often, so keep them sparkling and moisturized with some eye drops.

Maybe not that wet.


It’s easy to drink soda all weekend long but your body needs that water to work properly. If it’s not firing on all cylinders then it’s more likely to get sick. Get a bottle, carry it with you, drink it, get a refill.


Convention centres are renowned for their terrible food. The Boston Convention & Exhibition Centre is a prime location for a nutrition free weekend. Do what you can to get some proper vitamins and fibre inside you. Your gut and your immune system will thank you for it.

OK even convention centre hotdogs aren’t this terrible

In the run-up, during, and in the days following the event, give your immune system a boost with vitamins. A good multivitamin will do, you want vitamin c and zinc in particular. Yes, you will pee most of it out, but we are talking about giving you every fighting chance here.


See number 5. If you want your number 2s to be quick and simple, so you don’t have to spend too long in the convention centre restrooms, take a fibre supplement.

I’m a fan of Fybogel myself, other fibrous options are available.

Even Ryan wants you to have an easy poop

Your body needs it. Your brain needs it. If you’re tired, your system is tired. Also, you get a bit weird and creep people out and nobody wants that in a busy environment.

cat grumpy sleep insomnia
What if grumpy cat is grumpy because he can’t sleep?

Whether you need it or not, (you need it), get in the shower twice a day. Sanitize before you socialize.

Scrape the crud of the day off you before you go to sleep, so you aren’t stewing in convention juices all night. Get your night time stank off you in the morning before spending time with other people. Using soap/shower gel/anything to make you smell good is not optional and being around people enters you into a social contract where you endeavour to not smell bad.

No. No, it is not.

I know, you’ve been excited about this for so long. You’ve saved up, you’ve figured out the games you want to play and panels you want to see. Made a plan. Got your crew together. Got your con survival kit together.

And now you’re sick.

We can’t stop you from attending, but if you know you’re infectious and also probably aren’t going to have a great time, maybe stay home. There’ll always be another year (unless you die of course, and you’re only increasing the risk of that by going).

Look at all those germs… on all those people

And even then beware. You don’t know where they’ve been (but sometimes it’s a risk worth taking).

We can’t guarantee your well being at a convention, but we can all take steps to try. And God loves a trier.

Note: 2019 was a great year for avoiding PAX Pox at PAX East. Well done everyone!

Robin Bates – gaining the power of con crud immunity, one step at a time

Convention Diversity with Kyle-Steven Porter: PAX Diversity Lounge Manager

One of our most popular pieces: Personal Hygiene at Conventions

Convention Survival: The Psychology of Queuing (OR, How to Make Standing in Line Easier)

Join the Coaching for Geeks Facebook community for essential convention survival skills

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