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18 tips for staying healthy at a festival

18/06/2015 Frankie Mullin

© Getty f you’re lucky enough to be heading to a festival this summer, be aware that not only will the fun be ruined by injury or illness, you could end up with a serious health problem. Far be it from us to put a dampener on your festival excitement, but here are some festival health tips you need to read.

1. Find the medical centre

All major festivals make provision for medical emergencies. At Glastonbury, facilities include a hospital casualty unit, three walk-in medical centres, two first aid posts and two pharmacies. When you arrive at a festival, acquaint yourself with the location of the main medical centre.

2. Dehydration

Believe it or not, even at Britain’s rain-beleaguered festivals, dehydration is common, thanks to dancing, queuing and partying outside, excessive alcohol consumption and failure to drink enough water. Early signs of dehydration include thirst and dark coloured urine. It can also cause dizziness, headaches and loss of energy. Combat dehydration by drinking enough water. Carry a large reusable bottle to fill up from the free taps on site and drink water between alcoholic drinks. Sunscreen and a sun hat are also essential on hot days.

3. Hypothermia

Conversely, when the weather is cold, festival-goers have been known to get hypothermia. If your clothes are wet with rain or sweat, a drop in temperature – particularly at night – can lead to severe chills. Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, tiredness, fast breathing and cold, pale skin. Avoid this by bringing warm layers and, essentially, a waterproof. If you do get wet, make sure you dry out, even if it means a trek to the tent. In a serious case of hypothermia, seek medical attention.

4. Lack of sleep

Chronic lack of sleep can lower your immune system, make you cranky and, if you suffer from anxiety, increase the likelihood of a panic attack. If you choose to stay up all night then hats off to you but, if you want a few hours kip, be sure to bring ear plugs, an eye mask and suitable bedding. Without these, sleep is unlikely.

5. Pregnancy and STIs

If sex is on the cards, make sure you bring a supply of condoms. Being at a festival makes it no less likely that you will get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhoea, syphilis or chlamydia. If you need them, emergency contraception and sexual health advice is usually offered by the festival medics team.

© Getty 6. Diarrhoea and vomiting

Getting a stomach bug at a festival will transport you to hell, forcing you to spend your day hanging out in a sweltering, rancid portaloo. Of course, festival toilets are the place where you’re most likely to pick up diarrhoea and vomit-inducing germs in the first place. To avoid this, wash your hands whenever possible, carry lots of tissues and toilet paper and bring a supply of anti-bacterial gel and wipes. It's also a good idea to pack some Imodium just in you pick up any nasty bugs that could cause diarrhoea.

7. Alcohol

Realistically, you’re likely to drink more than usual when you’re at a festival. Just be sensible, remembering to top up on water, make sure you’ve eaten a meal that includes carbohydrates and fats (this will help slow your body’s absorption of alcohol) and stop when you’ve reached your limit. If the weather is hot, dehydration is even more likely, so bear this in mind as you slug back cider.

8. Manky feet
Wet feet can mean trench foot and fungal infections; easy to get, harder to get rid of. Keep your feet dry with wellies, change your socks as often as needed and take your footwear off at night.

9. Panic attacks

Between the huge crowds, the likelihood of getting lost and the abundance of drink and drugs, festivals are a prime location for a panic attack. Symptoms of a panic attack include a rush of fear and anxiety, heightened heart rate, sweating and trembling. If you need help, head to the medical centre and explain what you’re experiencing.

10. Drugs

Taking drugs is risky and, for some people, the large crowds and chaos of a festival are not conducive to an enjoyable experience. If you are going to take something, drink enough water to stay hydrated, avoid too much alcohol and stay with your friends. Remember that legal highs are not always safe and can also lead to bad reactions. If you or a friend has taken something and start to feel unwell, seek medical attention.

© Getty 11. Sunburn

If you happen to find yourself at a festival in decent weather, take precautions. Slap on some suncream as soon as you get up if the weather is bright; even if the sky isn’t blue you’ll be exposed to UV rays. If you do get burnt, try some aloe vera gel or calamine lotion.

12. Hearing loss

If you’re close to the stage, be aware that music volumes can reach 110dB, the same level as that of a pneumatic drill. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be triggered by these noise levels, so protect your ears. Take breaks from standing too close to the speakers and invest in some decent earplugs (such as those worn by DJs and musicians), which shouldn’t muffle the sound but will reduce its volume.

13. Blisters, cuts and sprains

Got a blister from dancing all day or a sprain from attempting to stage dive? Come prepared to treat your own rock and roll injuries with a basic medical kit. Blisters should be cleaned, covered with a plaster and left to heal, if possible without being punctured. Sprained ankles will need to be bandaged up by the medical team then walked on as little as possible.

14. Medication

If you take regular prescription medication, be sure to bring enough with you to last throughout the festival. Keep medication on you or ask the medical centre to look after it for you.  It’s also a good idea to bring a first aid kit with plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream, hay fever tablets sterile wipes and medication for headaches and bad stomachs.

15. Colds and flu

The temptation is to eat nothing but junk food while you’re at a festival but it’s a good idea to get some fruit and veg into you too. Keep your energy and immune system levels up by eating foods high in vitamins B and C, including tomatoes, seeds, spinach, broccoli, carrots, yoghurt and wholegrains. Fruit and vegetable juice or smoothies is an easy way get a nutrient fix and you’ll be glad you did it when you’re back at work next week minus the streaming cold.

© Getty 16. Hangovers
Waking up in your tent with a pounding head and nausea is not the most joyous festival experience but, for many, it will be a reality. The best hangover advice is to avoid giving yourself one in the first place (see previous tip) but if you do find yourself at death’s door, start by rehydrating with lots of water.

Paracetamol can help with the head, and is preferable to aspirin which can irritate the stomach. Eat something as soon as you can to balance your blood sugar levels, helping with the shakes. If needed, pop some antacid first to settle your stomach. Taking Milk Thistle tablets before you drink and then again before you go to sleep can help reduce the after effects of too much indulgence.

17. BBQ dangers

If you’re BBQing at a festival (not all will allow this, but Glastonbury does), be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In recent years there have been a number of fatalities and injuries in the UK as a result of people bringing BBQs or camping stoves into their tent or caravan and being overcome by carbon monoxide. Only BBQ outside and don’t use a BBQ or camping stove that’s damaged. CO is a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas that is non-irritating and, therefore, hard to detect.

Be careful about food poisoning if you’re cooking your own grub. Make sure meat is fully cooked to kill off bacteria.

18. Look out for your mates

Make sure you keep an eye on your friends. If everyone stays healthy you can concentrate on dancing, exploring and (moderated) debauchery.

Have fun!


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