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Attending local or regional music festivals is an annual tradition for many people. The festivals can be a fun time to reconnect with friends while enjoying great music.
I have staffed many first-aid tents at music festivals and helped attendees with a variety of medical issues over the years. Here are a few safety tips to remember so your music festival experience doesn't end on a sour note:
- Bring a reusable water bottle.
At sweltering summer events, dehydration can creep up unexpectedly. Bringing your own water bottle is key to having the best experience possible. Most festivals have easy water filling stations.
- Sip early and often.
With your attention focused on the festival activities, it's possible that you will forget to drink water until you begin feeling thirsty. However, thirst is a sign that you're already dehydrated, which is proven to dampen your mood and energy. Get more tips for drinking water.
- Check your urine.
You should be using the restroom about every two hours if you are well-hydrated, and your urine should be light yellow in color. If it's a darker color, similar to apple juice, you need to consume more water.
Protect your skin.
- Apply sunscreen.
Ultraviolet radiation is extreme during the summer, and it can take as little as 11 minutes in the midday sun to get sunburned. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater. Reapply every two hours or more often if you're sweating.
- Find the shade.
Many music festival venues lack shade. Do your best to find and remain in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest. It will make a difference in keeping your skin safe.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses.
Large, floppy hats can help protect your face from the sun. Protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them by wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Even if the sun doesn't bother your sight much, it's still important to keep your eyes safe by protecting them from UV rays.
Be mindful of medications and alcohol.
- Remember your medications.
Some festival-goers forget to bring along their prescription medications. You may not be able to fully enjoy the festival if you stop taking necessary medications.
- Avoid mixing alcohol and medications.
Alcohol can make some medications less effective or even useless. Mixing alcohol with some medications can cause issues you won't want to deal with when you're enjoying a festival, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, fainting or loss of coordination. It also could put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems and breathing difficulties.
- Beware of over-the-counter pain relievers and sleeping medication.
Drinking alcohol while taking ibuprofen can cause nausea, stomach bleeding and, possibly, liver damage. Sleep medications mixed with alcohol can cause increased drowsiness, difficulty breathing and memory problems.
- Keep things under control.
Hopefully, the festival grounds provide fire rings or pits. If not, choose a location at least 15 feet from tent walls, shrubs, low-hanging branches, trees or other flammable objects. Keep a source of water, a bucket and shovel nearby at all times for extinguishing. Don't burn aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass or aluminum cans. When putting out the fire, pour lots of water on it to drown all embers, not just the glowing ones.
Kirk Gunderson is a paramedic with Mayo Medical Transport.