Debauchery. It’s a word that doesn’t get thrown around too often these days. But, if there was a way to describe most of the UK's festivals, debauchery would be it. The thing is, it’s not all that good for you. Sex, drugs, rock n roll, cider and sunshine (or lack of), it’s all good until someone gets hurt. Here's a foolproof guide to keeping your health safe even when your dignity has long since disappeared in the haze of loud music, mud and alcohol.
You know it’s going to hurt in the morning, but indulgence is part of what a good festival is all about. Surrounded by thousands of like-minded people it’s easy to get carried away. Just make sure you don’t have to be carried away. The usual boozy-pitfalls of partying are only multiplied by disorientating dark fields and the same thousands of people who might not be as like-minded as first thought. Pace yourself, drink water in between each alcoholic drink and make sure you keep eating. Be aware of your tolerance levels and - we know this is hard - stop before the field starts to spin. Passing out in a muddle puddle is not safe or cool.
Romance can blossom anywhere. Even in a tent. And if you’re single and willing to mingle then things can and will happen. Festivals bring with them an attitude of unaccountability, but when it comes to contraception and STIs, it’s not quite the same. What happens in a tent doesn’t always stay in a tent, and mistakes can easily be made. Some festivals even have sexual-health clinics on site. Take advantage of the free advice (and condoms), and make sure that no one takes advantage of you.
Gone are the days of burger vans and mystery-meat pies. The festival market has become a proving ground for rising gourmet and health food brands. It’s possible to get a chunk of your five-a-day, try something new and fuel your party-fever all in one go. Most festival-brands are good for the planet as well. If you’d rather save the pennies and take your own food, don’t be afraid to pack some fruit in place of Pot Noodles. Apples will keep you going all afternoon and even come without any annoying preparation instructions.
Nothing beats a BBQ with your mates, and a summer festival is the perfect place for it. So why not avoid food-poisoning and the possibility of killing those mates by making a meat-free meal? Veggie burgers are a great alternative, can be bought from most camp-site shops and they don’t taste too bad either. If you have to cook meat, then aim for a balance between light charcoal (so the meat is properly cooked) and cremated. Too many burnt bits can be carcinogenic.
It’s going to get loud. That goes without saying. But how loud is too loud? The simple test is if you can’t talk to the person next to you without shouting, then it’s too loud. Fighting your way to the front of the crowd gets you a great view, but it’s worth keeping in mind just how powerful some sound systems can be. Do it too often for too long and you could be left with permanent tinnitus – destined to spend forever with your gran’s hearing. Plan time out breaks into your schedule. Give your ears a break. Keep your hearing.
You’re going to get dirty. Absolutely filthy. Primitive. And you’ll smell. That much is true. This doesn’t mean you should give in and let it happen – it’s all the more reason to keep clean. Getting up early to queue for an hour only to be dribbled on by a festival shower is no fun, so take matters into your own hands. Pick up a hefty pack of baby-wipes, a decent anti-perspiring and if you’ve got long hair, dry shampoo will change your world. Bottled water can be used for washing and remember to brush your teeth.
When it rains, and it will, it pours. Getting wet has become part of the British festival experience, but getting trench-foot really shouldn’t be. It may sound like dramatics lifted straight from the horrors of the First World War, but after spending a weekend in the same clothes, knee-deep in mud, you’ll soon see the similarities. Packing Wellies is essential and, if you're a girl, also pretty fashionable. Add to that as many pairs of socks as you have toes and you’ll make it through unscathed.
It’s hard to believe, but the sun doesn’t always shine down on the UK. However, it is possible to get sunburnt even on a lovely cloudy day. The best advice is to cover-up. Hide from the sun like it so often hides from you. Long sleeves, straw hats and inch-thick sun cream. If you do get sunburnt, the best cure is to just let it heal. Take some Ibuprofen to help with the pain and prevent further swelling – and whatever you do, stay out of the sun.
Hangover or Heatstroke?
Spending three days full of alcohol fermenting in the sun, dehydration is a real danger. If you start to get headaches, feel weak and start vomiting, there’s a chance it could be heatstroke and not a hangover. It can cause aggression and hostile behaviour, so keep an eye out for your friends and notice any changes in their behaviour. Get out of the sun and replace those fluids with nothing but plenty of water. Good old fashioned water.
Make yourself aware of the nearest medical centre, first-aid, post or St John’s Ambulance. Any festival worth its ticket should be dotted with them. When it comes to medication, they can only hand out over-the-counter stuff, so is you’re diabetic, asthmatic or anything else, keep your medication on you.