Festival survival guide

Music festivals are one of the highlights of the British summer, attracting hundreds of thousands of fans of all ages every year.

Whether you'll be moshing in the mud at Reading or drinking and dancing at the V festival, there are common health hazards that can be avoided.

"Many injuries and health complaints could be avoided with better planning," says Dr Chris Howes, medical director of Festival Medical Services, which provides medical support at several of the country's biggest festivals.

Alcohol

If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly and stick within the recommended limits. Men shouldn't regularly drink more than three to four units a day. For women, it's two to three units. Alcohol dehydrates you, so drink plenty of water to help prevent a nasty hangover. You don't want to miss your favourite band the next day because of a hangover. Get tips on avoiding a hangover.

Medication

First aiders are not allowed to hand out medication except over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol. If you're on any medication, bring your supply with you and take it as prescribed. Keep it on you or get it stored safely in the medical centre. If you're asthmatic, don't forget your inhaler and spare cartridges.

Have a pack of plasters and some disinfectant for minor grazes and cuts, and medication for headaches and stomach upsets. Find out more about First Aid.

Medical centre

Find out where the site's medical centres are when you arrive. If you think you may need assistance with an existing medical condition, make yourself known to the medical staff on your arrival. "If you're pregnant and near your due date, let the medical staff know," says Dr Howes.

Personal hygiene

Reduce your risk of picking up or spreading the germs that cause sickness and diarrhoea by washing your hands before you eat and after you go to the toilet. Wash your hands if you've been handling rubbish. "Bring wet wipes and antibacterial hand gel to use on your hands after going to the toilet and before you eat," says Dr Howes. If you get a cut, wash it with clean water. If you think it's infected, get help from the medical team.

Drugs

Taking drugs in a new place with large crowds is risky as you could end up feeling stressed and lost. "Try not to mix drugs and drink as it will make you sick," says Dr Howes. "If you're a regular drug user, don't take more than you're used to."

You can also get sick and have bad reactions to "legal high" drugs. "People think these herbal pills are like taking a vitamin pill but they're not," says Deborah Rees, founder of the Safeconcerts website. "With herbal highs, people can get paranoid or have other nasty side effects." Find out more about the health risks of  "legal highs".

Sex

Having sex without a condom increases the chance of pregnancy or catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia. Emergency contraception and sexual health advice is generally available from onsite medics.

"If you have unprotected sex and need emergency contraception, go to the medical centre. The quicker you get it, the more effective it is," says Dr Howes.

Foot health

Music festivals can be hard on your feet. It's important to keep them clean and dry to prevent problems such as blisters, fungal infections or trench foot. Trench foot typically develops after prolonged exposure to the wet and cold. "The only way to prevent trench foot is to keep your feet dry," says Dr Howes.

Bring waterproof wellingtons and dry socks to change into. If possible, take your shoes and socks off at night. Flip-flops are not good festival shoes and neither are new shoes that can give you blisters.

Ears

Wear earplugs when you're close to loud speakers. Take regular breaks from the music to give your ears a rest. "The music around the sound stages can reach in excess of 110dB, equivalent to the noise made by pneumatic drill," says the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Find out more about protecting your ears.

Sun protection

Using a sun cream with a minimum factor of 15, and applying it regularly, will give you protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays. If you do get burned, apply after-sun to soothe the affected area. "It doesn't take much sun to get severely burned or have sunstroke when you're outside all day at a festival," says Dr Howes.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck and ears, and cover your back and shoulders, even if you're wearing sunscreen. Find out more about protecting your skin in the sun.

Water

Drink plenty of water. Have a bottle of water with you at all times. The combination of heat, dancing and alcohol can quickly dehydrate you. Many festivals supply free fresh water, so there's no excuse. "Many people consume a lot more alcohol than they normally would, and it has a dehydrating effect," says Dr Howes. Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks can prevent you getting dehydrated and reduce the effects of a hangover.

Find out more about how much water you should be drinking.

Clothing

Waterproofs and warm clothing are essential. People can get hypothermia (when your body temperature drops below safe levels) at festivals when the temperature drops at night, especially if their clothes are damp from sweat. If it rains, try to stay as dry as possible. "Take a cagoule or mac and a spare set of clothes to change into," says Dr Howes.

Camping

Camping gas accidents are the most common cause of serious burns at festivals. Never change gas canisters in or near a tent. Check that the canister is threaded properly before lighting.

Mobile phones

Mobile phone coverage at many festivals can be unreliable. If you get separated from your friends, have an arranged meeting spot and time. In case of an emergency, the festival stewards are there to help. "We discourage people from calling 999 from the festival grounds as it can place undue pressure on local emergency services," says Dr Howes.

Wax flares

Only buy wax flares from authorised dealers. Illegal flares can spit and run, causing wax burns. "Every year some irresponsible people sell unapproved flares and candles that can cause very nasty, sight-threatening eye injuries," says Dr Howes.

 

 

Festival health

Sunburn, sound pollution, STIs - watch this video to learn how to cope with these and more during summer festivals.

Media last reviewed: 06/09/2013

Next review due: 06/09/2015

Page last reviewed: 05/05/2013

Next review due: 05/05/2015

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