Summer’s here, and for many people that means a packed calendar of festival fun. From Glastonbury to Reading & Leeds, there are plenty of opportunities for a weekend of mud and mayhem.
We want to help you get the most out of your festival experience. Simply put, the better you feel, the more fun you’ll have. To keep you at the top of your game for the full weekend, we’ve asked our smart network of doctors for their essential festival advice.
Use it wisely.
Try to stay clean
Perhaps the greatest challenge of festival life is staying clean. You don’t have your usual home comforts and the toilet situation isn’t exactly a secret.
While you naturally have lots of different bacteria on your skin, a few days without a shower could allow bad bacteria to overpower the good and cause infections. Changing a contact lens could let bacteria into your eye and affect your short- and long-term vision. Dirty skin is also at risk of spots and blemishes, which we’d guess is not the look you’re going for.
What can you do? Luckily, it’s easy to pack a few things that’ll help you stay fresh. Think wet wipes, antibacterial hand wash, dry shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste. That’s everything you need to tide you over until you get back to reality.
Now, let’s talk about toilets. Disposable seat covers will put a barrier between you and anything too grim, while on no account should you visit the toilet barefoot. It’s advisable to take your own toilet roll and hand wash, too. Don’t be the person who spreads a nasty virus around your mates.
Before we move on, let’s talk about a different sort of cleanliness. For the optimists among you, packing condoms is a good idea. A risk here might leave you with more than just a festival t-shirt as a souvenir!
Take care in the sun
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a festival bathed in glorious summer sunshine, remember to look after your skin. It’s easy to forget when you’re busy having fun, but getting badly sunburned on day one could ruin the rest of your festival.
Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect you from the lobster look. Check for the words ‘broad spectrum’ to ensure your skin is fully protected.
To remain effective, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. That’s obviously a challenge if you’re in a crowd, but there should be a window of opportunity to top up between sets.
Covering up is a decent fallback option here. A big floppy hat will keep sensitive areas like your face, ears and neck in the shade. Sunglasses offer protection too. Bright light can trigger migraines, so it’s good to shield your eyes, while you should check the label before you buy to ensure UV protection is provided.
Read more: Our quick and easy guide to sun safety
Bugs are another nuisance when it’s warm. Bites and stings cause itching, rashes and other symptoms that can be really annoying. If you’re the sort of person who mosquitoes flock around like a buffet, make sure you bring an effective insect repellant. It needs to be at least 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) to keep those pests at bay.
Be prepared for rain
A rainy festival can affect your health in a number of ways. For starters, you’ll be colder, which will lower your body temperature and make you more likely to pick up viruses. This isn’t ideal if you’re spending the weekend in a crowd of thousands.
Getting soaked through will also spoil your mood, while if you don’t have a decent change of clothes handy, your skin will suffer. Then there’s the slippery ground, making it more likely that you’ll fall and hurt yourself.
As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Even if the forecast doesn’t mention rain, it’s always safest to assume there’ll be some.
That means ponchos, waterproof jackets and wellies. These will help you stay dry, while sensible footwear will also stop you from taking a tumble in the mud.
Keeping your feet dry is really important. Staying in the same rain-soaked shoes and socks is terrible for your feet and can lead to nerve or tissue damage, numbness, tingling and redness in as little as 24 hours.
Think about where you’re setting up camp, too. There’s probably a reason that spot at the bottom of the hill is free. If it rains, you want the water to flow away from your tent, not into it, so pitch up on high ground. Getting all your stuff covered in dirty water is an obvious health risk, while a flooded tent will also affect your chances of a decent sleep.
Even if you’re blessed with great weather, things can get chilly once that sun dips below the horizon.
When your body temperature drops, your nerves send a signal to your brain that you need to get warmer. The first step your body takes is to generate more metabolic heat through shivering.
Blood vessels near your skin close up and keep blood near your internal organs, in order to keep your core temperature up. Now you know why you’re shaking and your skin feels like ice.
Sure, your body has your best interests at heart here, but in the short term you’ll be far too distracted to enjoy the set you’ve been waiting for all day. You can avoid this by bringing a comfy hoodie or jumper with you for later in the evening.
Water is your friend
This is especially true if you plan on drinking alcohol in the sun all day. Alcohol and hot weather can both dehydrate you, so it’s really important to get plenty of water.
If you’re trying to avoid using the toilets too often, drinking lots of water probably seems counterproductive. Alcohol will make you need to pee faster than water anyway though, so there goes that idea.
Rather than pay for water, take a bottle with you and refill it from the taps found on most festival sites.
Bring your own festival food
Crazy prices. Questionable quality. Massive queues that make you miss your favourite band. The festival food experience often leaves a lot to be desired, so why not take care of your meals yourself?
You can get a camping stove for under £15, and a small pan won’t take up too much space. This simple sausage casserole will ensure everyone gets a hearty first-night dinner.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 4 sausages
- 1 tin of mixed beans
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 carrot, chopped
- ½ red onion, diced
- 1 courgette, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 sachet of salt
- 1 sachet of black pepper
- 50ml olive oil
- 50ml water
You can get a lot of the prep done at home, bag it up and bring it with you. The cooking is the easy bit!
How to make it
- Cut the sausages into three and fry them off in the oil.
- Stir in the courgette, onion and carrot.
- Add the garlic, water and tomatoes.
- Simmer on a medium heat until the liquid has reduced by a third.
- Add the mixed beans and heat for a further five minutes.
- Season and serve.
The protein from the sausages will re-energise you for the next day and repair your aching muscles, while the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables will boost your immune system and keep your skin healthy. It’s the perfect fuel for your weekend!
Take your medication
Most summer festivals have a clear policy on bringing in prescription medication. They also advise you to bring info with you on any medical conditions you have, including allergies, in case you need medical treatment while you’re there.
If you have asthma, you mustn’t forget to pack your reliever inhaler. There’s plenty at a festival that could trigger your symptoms, including the weather, pollen, dust and smoke from barbecues, cigarettes and even stage performances.
Hay fever is another one to watch out for. If the pollen count is high, you don’t want to be left without your antihistamines. You may not be aware that some alcoholic drinks, in particular red wine and beer, can also trigger histamine production in your body and lead to hay fever symptoms.
Protect your ears
At the risk of sounding like a buzzkill, you probably know that repeatedly exposing your ears to loud noises risks damaging your hearing later in life.
The condition you need to know about is called tinnitus. Symptoms include a constant ringing or buzzing sound that can make it difficult to concentrate.
It’s no laughing matter, but luckily it’s something you can easily protect yourself against. Silicon earplugs won’t affect your ability to enjoy the music, but they’ll spare future you a lot of grief. They cost next to nothing and they might even help you sleep, too.
Speaking of which...
Don’t forget to rest
Sleep isn’t a priority at a festival. We get that. However, a bit of quality shut-eye will ensure you can keep going while others run out of steam.
Make sure you have a comfy spot to sleep in. You don’t want to wake up with a bad back or stiff neck. While an inflatable mattress might take up too much space in your camping bag, a yoga mat (or similar) will at least put something between you and the hard, lumpy ground.
On a related note, it’s a good idea to have a small torch to help you navigate your way back to your bed in the dark and avoid tripping over a stray tent rope.
You can also take this opportunity to make some running repairs. Put a plaster over any blisters on your hard-working feet, slap on some aftersun if your skin feels a bit prickly and make a start on your hangover recovery. You’ll be right as rain by morning!
Think we’ve missed something?
Have we covered everything here? We’ve certainly given it a good go, but if we’ve missed your must-have festival health essential off our checklist, why not head over to Facebook or Twitter and let us know?
Or, if you've got a festival coming up and want to make sure you're raring to go, have a chat to one of our doctors today. They'll be happy to provide advice and help you deal with any health issues you're having before you leave.Find out more