How to stay healthy at those grueling music festivals

 How to stay healthy at those grueling music festivals
Experts recommend festival-goers "buddy up" to look out for each other. Be sure to take time to cool off in shaded areas. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Coachella may be a foggy memory, but those who tread the music festival circuit have a busy few months ahead. Notable festivals still to come include Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Outside Lands in San Francisco and Electric Daisy in New York and Las Vegas.

Going to one, or going to all, can be hard on the body. Dehydration, lack of sleep, excessive sun exposure, dangerously high decibel levels and poor eating — not to mention alcohol and drug use and sexual encounters, much of which generally should be avoided — can all lead to festival-goers feeling decidedly wrecked.


Organizers are trying to make these events healthier: At Coachella, juice companies had pop-ups. At Stagecoach, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, Toyota sponsors cooling stations where people can refill water bottles, relax on a hammock surrounded by misters and walk away with bandannas dunked in ice. And earphone brand Dubs is selling its noise-filtering products at Bonnaroo and Outside Lands.

"Music festivals are fun, but a lot of things can go wrong," said Dr. Cary A. Presant, professor of clinical medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine. To offset the chances of medical problems, Presant suggested attendees buddy up — think designated driver.

"Have a partner, and look out for each other, and let them know if they are going to excess," Presant said. He also suggested knowing where the medical tent is, designating an emergency meeting spot and taking time to sit in the shade.

"I have seen people come back from these events with infections, heatstroke and even twisted ankles and sprains" from a mosh pit, he said.

One overlooked health risk is food poisoning, said Darin Detwiler, senior policy coordinator at the nonprofit public health group Stop Foodborne Illness and an adjunct professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

"You have people who are not fully trained in food safety, who don't have the right certification, who don't have accurate meat temperatures being reached, and where there aren't adequate hand-washing stations," Detwiler said. "And there have been foodborne outbreaks. It can take nine to 11 days for the symptoms to appear. They're not going to remember it must have been that [burger] at the festival. If you see a cooking stand set up in a field with no health certification, you're better off staying away from it."

Here are some easy ways to stay healthy at music festivals — or any big outdoor event.

• Sunscreen: Do you really need someone else to tell you how important it is? Doctors suggest a minimum SPF of 30 and reapplying it at least every two to three hours.

• Keep non-perishable snacks in your pack. Pouches stuffed with liquefied fruits and vegetables have now crossed over from toddler food to the grown-up market and are a great way to get in your five-a-day while on the road. Examples include Fruigees, which have a thicker texture and more robust flavor than most. Offerings include grape and kale, cherry and beet, and carrot with orange. $23.88 for a 12-pack on

Paleo fans might choose Epic bars — high-protein, gluten-free, all-natural chunks of beef, bison, chicken, turkey and pork, richly spiced and packaged for ease of travel. The bars are more moist than jerky and come in combinations like chicken sesame barbecue and beef habanero cherry. $30 and up for a 12-pack on

• At least one member of your group should have a cooler. Icemule Coolers are soft, spacious and lightweight. Fill with ice, pack with juices and fruit and vegetables.

• If you're camping out, Action Wipes, at 9-by-10 inches, are full body wet wipes, moistened with eucalyptus, tea tree and ylang-ylang oil and providing a lather that then wipes clean off the body. They are free of alcohol, chemicals or parabens that can dry out the skin. The result is being able to retain some personal hygiene without having to wait in line for a shower at a campground. $24 for a pack of 30 sheets.

• Water is crucial. Bring a refillable bottle, and make sure to ... refill it.

• Filthy and overused Porta-Potties are a sad inevitability of the music festival scene, especially for women who will do anything to not sit on those seats. The Stand Up can help. The small, pink triangular piece of cardboard is positioned against the woman's body to allow her to relieve herself standing up. Festival Pack includes 18 units for $16.


• The average sound intensity level at a rock concert is 111 decibels; according to the National Institute on Deafness, repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Dubs Acoustic Filters makes earplugs designed for live music. They protect the ears and filter the sound without muffling. $25 at retailers including Best Buy and Guitar Center.