If you've been to an outdoor festival, you know what it’s like to be surrounded by music and friends, along with the dirt, pollen and maybe even secondhand smoke . If you're one of the unlucky folks to catch a show after a rainy day, you can add mud and quite possibly mold, grass, weeds and other allergens to the mix. All of these elements are ripe to form the perfect chorus of coughs, sneezes and wheezes. Affectionately referred to as "Festival Flu" this virus is anecdotally said to set in after a weekend of concerts. Stories of "Festival Flu" are so common that Coachella has a forum with concert-goers lamenting their post-festival illness and sharing remedies to colds and flu in addition to the after-effects of too much fun.
In 2003, when seasonal influenza was at one of its highest points, the Park City Medical Center in Utah handed out 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer at the Sundance Film Festival. Called a " typical petri dish" the large groups of film enthusiasts in close quarters, running on little sleep and rarely washing their hands, also led to an uptick in colds post-festival.
While festivals of music and filmgoers with poor access to handwashing stations, challenging weather and having too much fun to hydrate, may sound like the perfect storm for a festival virus, the truth is, "Festival Flu" is not much different from the common cold.
"It's usually not a specific illness but a combination of lack of sleep, lack of nutrition screaming, shouting and dehydration," said Cedric "Jamie" Rutland, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care medicine physician and Lung Association spokesperson.
There are many ways to reduce your risk of developing Festival Flu or the common cold. Wash your hands. This may be difficult at a big festival so you may want to bring along some hand sanitizer.
Hydrate. This is of utmost importance while at a festival. Staying hydrating will keep the lining of your nose and throat from drying out so that mucus remains moist and easy to clear from the nose.
Speaking of hydrating, avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol—they lead to dehydration.
Don’t smoke and stay away from others who are smoking. Inhaling smoke—even secondhand—can irritate your throat and cause a cough.
Start your allergy medication before allergy season. This will lessen the likelihood of succumbing to your allergy symptoms while out at a festival and keep you healthy.
Eat well. Dr. Rutland suggests eating fresh fruits and drinking smoothies to ensure proper nutrition.
Attending a festival can be the highlight of the summer. Don’t dampen the rest of your summer with a common cold. Stay healthy and safe so that you can breathe well and sing to the top of your lungs.