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Beat the Heat at DragonCon

Posted on by Tanisha Kelley and Latoya Simmons
Drago Con
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Hall, Office of Minority Health & Health Equity

DragonCon is a convention that combines science fiction and fantasy, with gaming, comics, and entertainment for the largest multi-genre event in the world. In 2016, an estimated 77,000 people from around the world attended this annual event that is held every Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta.

“This is a bad idea,” she said.

Hellboy Cosplay
Cosplay is a shortened form of 2 words – costume and play. It is the practice of dressing as characters from books, video games, movies, etc. Many view it as an art form and take great pride in their costumes, especially the ones made by hand.

“No, it’s cool. I have it all planned out,” I replied.

“Yeah, I’m not so sure about that but ok…”

The topic was my costume. The problem was the weather; namely that it was 90⁰ F degrees outside with 85% humidity, making it feel closer to 100 degrees. I was covered from head to toe in clothing that, while not heavy, did not promote airflow. My only exposed body parts were my face and one of my hands. Unfortunately, both were painted red and covered with two layers of barrier spray to prevent sweating and make the makeup water resistant. I’d worked hard on my Hellboy cosplay and DragonCon was the reward for my six weeks of work.

“It’ll be fine. What’s the worst that can happen?” I said.

Prioritize your health

Four hours later, I was back in my hotel room with a case of vertigo so bad that I couldn’t walk down the hall without hugging the wall. I made it back to my room, fighting the urge to vomit with every step. I was too disoriented to shower. All I could do was grab a cool, damp washcloth for my head, and a bottle of water to drink before lying down hoping that it would help make me feel better. Instead, I ended up in bed for the next 24 hours instead of enjoying DragonCon.

How could this happen? I work in public health and know about the dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Yet, there I was, confined to my bed because in all the excitement of the convention I had made a series of bad decisions that could be traced back to one thing: I prioritized my costume over my health. Each decision felt small, so small that I don’t think it would matter. And, even when I knew better, they all added up to dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Stay cool. Stay hydrated. Stay informed.

  • Wear appropriate clothing. If you are participating in DragonCon, it’s difficult to dress with the weather in mind. Most decisions about cosplay are made without considering the weather. That said, do your best.
  • Limit your time in the sun. Even though all the big photoshoots happen outdoors, do your best to stay in shaded areas and avoid going into the sun until it is necessary.
  • Stay Hydrated. While drinking water can equate to more bathroom breaks, it’s important to drink plenty of water and some sports drinks to replace your body’s salt and minerals.
  • Do not let yourself get thirsty. Once you’re thirsty, you already dehydrated and nothing wrecks a convention faster than passing out.Know the signs of heat exhaustion
  • Be aware of the temperature and extreme heat alerts. You may be able to adjust your cosplay and activity roster based on weather reports.
  • Learn to recognize signs off heat exhaustion and address them immediately. It’s hard to listen to your body with all the excitement of DragonCon, but it’s important. If you start feeling queasy or lightheaded, it’s time to retreat to a cool area, sit down, and have something to drink. If you know what to look for, you can address it much more quickly.

Pay attention to your body

Upon reflection, there were four big things that led to my downfall:

  1. I ignored the weather. I decided to dress as a character who wore multiple layers of clothing. Because my clothing was hot, that meant that I needed to be able to sweat more.
  2. I sealed my face paint. My cosplay required face paint and I used a sealant to prevent sweating, which limited my body’s ability to cool off.
  3. I did not drink water. I needed help getting in and out of my cosplay, which added a level of difficulty when I needed to use the bathroom. To avoid frequent trips to the restroom, I didn’t drink enough water to stay hydrated.
  4. I did not listen to my body. I started feeling sick within minutes of standing in the sun. Instead of listening to my body, which was telling me to find a cool place to sit down and drink some water, I stayed outside in the sun. It wasn’t until the world started spinning, along with my stomach, that I realized I couldn’t stay.

I would say it was a rookie mistake but it wasn’t. I just didn’t prioritize my health and well-being and as a result, I experienced heat exhaustion, which could have easily escalated to heat stroke.

DragonCon is meant to be a fun event. Being aware of how things can go badly is the first step in preventing them. The most important lesson I learned from my encounter with heat exhaustion was that recovering from it takes a lot longer than preventing it in the first place.

Now I do my best to be prepared. I hope you do, too.

Happy DragonCon!

Don’t forget to stop by the official CDC table in the lobby of the Hilton Atlanta.

Posted on by Tanisha Kelley and Latoya SimmonsTags , , , , , ,

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