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Outdoor Festival Health and Safety

Everything You Need to Know for Festival Well-Being

Stay Safe Without Skipping a Beat

For four days every summer, people flock to Chicago for Lollapalooza, an outdoor music festival. Apart from the musical acts, health hazards often make headlines at the event. If you're headed to Lollapalooza this year, pack these health and safety tips to help ensure your well-being.

Beat the Heat

Extreme heat is responsible for several hundred deaths a year in the U.S. The environment at summer music festivals is often conducive to the development of heat-related illnesses such as sunburn, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Sunburn can occur within as little as 15 minutes. It's painful in the short term and can cause long-term damage to the skin, including increasing your risk of developing skin cancer and speeding the aging of your skin.

Sunscreen is your first line of defense against the sun. Use enough sunscreen to fill up one shot glass, and apply it to your entire body every two hours. Use broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.

From Heat Rash to Heat Stroke

Excessive sweating can cause skin irritation, also called heat rash. Prevent heat rash by wearing loose-fitting clothing and applying lotion or dusting powder to parts of the body that are prone to irritation.

When it's hot and humid, sweating helps regulate your body temperature. But excessive sweating can cause your body to lose salt and electrolytes, which are vital to proper muscle function. The result is muscle cramping. Prevent heat cramps by staying hydrated and drinking beverages that are high in electrolytes.

If not treated, heat illnesses can progress to heat exhaustion, which occurs when your body temperature rises to 104 degrees F or higher. Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

If not immediately addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency.

"Some of the symptoms of heat stroke — altered cognitive state, loss of consciousness, combative or overemotional behavior — are similar to how individuals will behave if intoxicated or using illicit substances," says George T. Chiampas, DO, emergency medicine specialist and medical director of Community and Sports Event Preparedness Management at Northwestern Medicine.

Hydration Is High Priority

"Staying hydrated is one of the most effective ways to stay safe in the face of heat during Lollapalooza," says Dr. Chiampas. "A good way to tell if you're dehydrated is assessing the color of your urine. If it's dark yellow or brown, that's a good indication that you need more fluids — not alcohol."

Take Breaks and Seek Shade

"Take dancing breaks in cooler areas, like under tents, to allow your body time to normalize its temperature," says Dr. Chiampas.

Substance Safety

"Drinking in excess and stimulant poisoning are common hazards at Lollapalooza," says Dr. Chiampas.

Remember these safety tips:

  • Designate a driver, or use a rideshare service or public transportation to get to and from the event.
  • Stay in a group and designate one person who will be responsible for everyone's safety. If you're going to multiple days of Lollapalooza, alternate among your friends.
  • Stay hydrated: Alternate alcoholic beverages with water.
  • Pack snacks to ensure you're getting proper nutrition.

If you have an underlying medical condition, such as asthma, allergies or diabetes, be sure to bring the resources and medications you need with you, plus backups.

Strength in Numbers

"The fatalities that Lollapalooza has seen over the years have been from people being alone, passing out without anyone to help them seek medical attention when necessary," says Dr. Chiampas. "There's strength in numbers."

Go to the festival with a group, and designate a meeting place within the park and outside of the festival in the event of evacuation due to weather. You may not have cellphone reception at the festival, so come up with a backup form of communication, such as leaving a message at your hotel.

Finally, when in doubt, always seek medical attention. Medical tents are set up inside the park. Identify their locations so you can get there quickly if you or someone you're with has a medical emergency.


See the encore, not the ED.