A beginner’s guide to surviving a full four days at a festival

Just try not to die


As the festival season arrives on our doorstep, both returning visitors and newbies prepare to hit the fields and beaches of Britain (and beyond) to enjoy some quality music and events. But it’s not all tie-dye, polaroid selfies and pingers. It’s also the season of torrential downpours, dreaded Portaloos and less-than-glamorous sleeping arrangements.

In fact unless you’re careful, festivals can be pretty bad for your health. There’s the obvious health risks – too much alcohol, easy access to dodgy drugs and unprotected sex with muddy strangers a five minute walk away from your substitute “home”. But there’s a whole host of other nasty illnesses you’re at risk of being exposed to too.

Be aware, beware, and hopefully you can stay safe and relatively alive at your chosen gigs.

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Find the medics

As soon as you arrive, and before you touch a drop of alcohol, find the medical tent, says Dr Chris Howes, medical director of Festival Medical Services. Make a note of where it is, draw it on the back of your hand or pitch your tent up beside it if you’re feeling really pessimistic. Here doctors and medical staff will be waiting on hand 24 hours a day to provide emergency care, or merely providing paracetamol to combat raging hangovers, or the morning-after pill.

Keep the squad together

It’s inevitable, you’re going to watch different acts to your friends with shitty taste in music. Choose an obvious meet up point in case you get lost or separated (you will). Commandeer a flag or a food stand you’ll remember even when you’re wasted.

Consume food

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Easily fit in your bum-bag

In all the excitement, don’t forget to combine your messy partying with actual food. Be it the week-long supply of Nutri-grain bars you’ve loaded into your backpack, or the perilously expensive noodle bars and burger vans on-site, it’s safe to say you won’t exactly be getting your five a day. Rebecca Gillam, writing for Women’s Health, recommends some healthy alternatives: “Fruit, rice cakes, dried fruit, organic granola and seeds are all great ways of keeping energy levels high and hunger at bay – allowing you to hold your front of stage spot for the maximum time.” Remember that dried or tinned fruit will last longer than fresh and won’t take up too much room, helping refresh you after a heavy mix of vodka, rum or cider.

If you plan on bringing a disposable BBQ, beware the impatient eaters- undercooked sausages tend to be the main culprits of food poisoning in summer in general, so slice down the middle of them to check they aren’t piggy pink, and to cook them quicker too. There were hundreds of reported cases of illness and food poisoning at Newcastle’s Street Spice food festival last year, with 29 confirmed cases of salmonella. Amandeep Dhillon, a solicitor and member of a specialist illness team who covered the outbreak says, “It is important to remember that bacteria can multiply in undercooked food and the consequences of eating the same can be grave.”

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In the moment, this looks like gourmet cuisine

Hydration is key

Dehydration teamed with a dodgy diet often leads to sickness, so carry a bottle of water with you at all times, and take a few generous glugs in between every three cans of beer. Also, only take water from officially signposted taps on site- if you find a mysterious looking farmer’s hose or mains systems near Portaloos, stay well away.

And everyone knows those Portaloos are a whole different threat on their own. Try not to pitch your tents near to them at all costs – even if it seems like a great idea for the morning having quick and easy access to them, consider the thousands of other drunken revellers who will be stumbling over your tent to use them, potentially having them knocked over and a pleasant river of their contents making its way towards where you sleep, and most of all, the smell. When using them, it sounds obvious but always wash your hands, or if there are no sinks available, invest in some alternatives: “This is an important must-have for festivals where general hygiene facilities may be in short supply. Hygiene products such as hand wipes or hand gel can be very useful in terms of preventing the spread of bacteria,” says Amandeep.

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Don’t forget to scrub those mucky paws

Don’t break anything

Predictably, most injuries at festivals occur in the arenas for each act. But they can be avoided. Burst or damaged ear drums are commonly a result of standing too close to the speakers either side of the stage area, the sounds omitted often topping 110 decibels, or the equivalent of standing next to a pnuematic drill splitting open concrete. Donna Tipping from Action on Hearing Loss says: “If you think you’ve toughened up your ears to loud music or become used to loud music, it’s possible you have already suffered some damage.”

If you’re worried about Tinnitus or saving your delicate lobes for the next act, take ear plugs and give your ears a rest every half hour or so. It sounds shit – no pun intended – but even the DJs and musicians on stage use ear plugs, as once your hearing is impaired, it can be hard to fix.

And think twice about climbing up on someone’s shoulders, especially if you don’t know them. A drunken lift to see the stage could invariably lead to you being dropped if the person you’re sitting on is wasted or not strong enough to take your weight. Worse, is if you get dropped on other people, injuring them, and becoming the main source of hatred for the next three acts by the people around you. Nine times out of ten, you won’t be saved by crowd-surfing.

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If he starts moshing, the joke’s on you love