Packing for #scio12: plague relief.

Happy New Year! As I type this post, only 18 days remain until the official start of ScienceOnline 2012, which means soon it will be time to pack.

What should you be packing for your trip to premiere annual international meeting on science and the Web? In this post and those that follow, I'll offer some suggestions.

There is something of a tradition of conference-goers being less than healthy at the conference. With a mid-January conference -- right in the middle of cold and flu season -- this is maybe not so surprising. So take it into account in your packing.

1. Tissues. Sure, if you need to, you can scam T.P. from your hotel room, but blowing your nose in something designed for nose-blowing is a lot more comfortable. You might want to get the more portable "purse-packs," but those have like eight tissues a piece.

2. Handkerchiefs. These take less room in your carry-on than a box of tissues, are reusable, and can get you through a full day of sniffles pretty well. The downside is that they're pretty much a single-user item, so you can't share them with a fellow sniffler.

3. Hand sanitizer. No matter what you're using to blow your nose, keeping some hand sanitizer handy to kill those surface germs is a good idea.

4. Nasal irrigation system. Mine is a neti pot. Be sure to bring saline packets (and to work out a strategy with the tools available in your hotel room for avoiding brain-eating amoebae). Nasal irrigation isn't magic, but it can make breathing easier for at least a little while, not to mention keeping things moving so as to discourage secondary infections form taking hold in that yummy thick mucus.

5. Your preferred cold remedy. Whatever you use to relieve symptoms of bad colds or flu, pack some of that. Note that, if you're flying, gel caps will probably have to fit in your quart baggie of liquids and gels. Also note that remedies containing acetaminophen will exert some wear-and-tear on your liver -- something you'll want to take into account if you're planning on drinking heavily with your fellow conference goers.

6. Tea bags. If you are stricken by a cold or flu, drinking sufficient fluids is important, and steamy ones may make your ravaged nose feel better. Bringing a flavor of tea that you know you can drink in quantity -- even when nothing tastes quite right -- will help you take good care of yourself.

Not pictured: A flu shot. Prevention is obviously better than treatment after the fact, so get vaccinated. In her discussion of the SciO11 plague, Maryn McKenna puts it best:

[I]f there is a lesson here, it is one that a gathering of sci-minded folks ought to know already, but may need reinforcing: Before you come to SciO, you should have all your shots up to date, and that includes this year's flu shot. To ensure protection, you should get that shot no later than the first week of January.

For those keeping score at home, this is the first week of January. Find some room in your schedule and get a flu shot! You'll be helping yourself and the herd.

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