Music festivals are one of the highlights of the summer, but spending all day drinking in the sun can have its downsides. Here's how to maximize the fun and minimize the health risks.
1. Apply the highest SPF possible before you leave.
Since we tend to not reapply as much as we should, applying a high SPF will offer the longest, highest quality protection possible, says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital. Look for a sunscreen that's water resistant for up to 80 minutes to stand up to rain and sweat, says Dr. Zeichner. And don't forget your ears, the back and sides of your neck, hands, upper chest, tops of your feet, hairline, and lips. (Check out the best editor-tested sunscreens for working out.)
2. Wear comfortable, close-toed shoes.
Depending on the location and weather, you may be walking all day on festival grounds that are dusty and muddy. So leave the cute sandals at home and wear comfortable, supportive close-toed shoes to protect your feet from injury, and keep blisters and achy feet at bay, says Arefa Cassoobhoy, M.D., and medical editor at WebMD.
3. Opt for a broad brim hat.
Baseball hats don't cut it since they won't protect your full face or neck, says Dr. Zeichner. Choose a hat that goes all the way around for the highest protection from the sun. (Don't forget these stylish sunglasses that also protect your eyes.)
4. Bring your own toilet paper and sanitizing wipes.
You're likely to encounter a less than desirable porta-potty situation, but don't try to hold it in all day! To stay clean and avoid infections, bring your own toilet paper (or a packet of tissues) so you're not caught short, says Dr. Cassoobhoy. It can perform double-duty for protecting your hands from directly touching your not-so-clean surroundings. And if soap and water aren't available, you'll be glad you have sanitizing wipes on hand.
5. Don't forget a refillable water bottle.
The importance of staying hydrated can't be overstated. Even small amounts of alcohol during an all-day musical event involving dancing and singing in the heat can lead to serious dehydration, says cardiologist Jennifer Haythe, M.D., assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center.
6. Don't go hungry.
Have a plan for eating and bring snacks with you to replenish missing electrolytes like potassium, sodium and magnesium, says Kimberly Gomer, R.D., Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa. If you really want the french fries, go for it, but if you can make a healthier option, you'll feel so much better during and after, she says.
7. Take a break in the shade.
Even those who aren't drinking or using drugs can develop heat stroke and dehydration from excessive exertion, says Dr. Haythe. Take frequent breaks between shows and find some shade to allow your body time to recover before hitting the dance floor again.
8. Avoid illegal drugs altogether.
MDMA (ecstasy) causes the body to overheat, which is especially dangerous when combined with physical activity in the heat. The euphoria of the drug can also lead people to be unaware of their level of exertion, leading to severe dehydration, which can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness, says Dr. Haythe. What's more, ecstasy users who have been warned of this problem can overconsume water (water intoxication), causing low sodium levels, which can be equally dangerous.
Cocaine is another drug frequently used to maintain energy at these types of all day events. Cocaine is a stimulant and, like ecstasy, can make you unaware of your level of exertion and dehydration. Worse, cocaine is directly toxic to the heart and can cause heart attacks in otherwise healthy young people by causing spasms of the arteries, says Dr. Haythe. And it may go without saying, but never take substances/pills/tabs or drinks from people you don't know.
9. Pace yourself.
If you're going to drink alcohol at the festival, pace yourself so you can enjoy the entire day. To avoid both dehydration and dangerous intoxication, alternate your drinks with non-alcoholic beverages, Dr. Cassoobhoy.
10. Limit sweets.
While you should fully take advantage of the ice cream and other delicious desserts that will be at your disposal, try to limit yourself to one treat if you're going to be drinking, says Gomer.
11. Don't push yourself.
If you start to feel unwell, don't try push through it—even if you want to make it to the headliner. Ask a friend for help or flag down a staff member who can help you find EMTs and first-aid workers who are available to treat people with dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion.