Summer music festivals offer up a lot of fun in a big outdoor package but they can also offer up health risks – including toxic drug poisoning, heat stroke and dehydration.

Some care and preparation can help you make the most of your festival experience. Here are ten tips:

1. Be aware of your surroundings

Everyone wants to have fun. Stay aware of your surroundings and know your boundaries.

  • Become familiar with the festival site layout. As soon as you arrive, locate services like water stations, chill out zones, first aid and safe substance use locations.
  • Locate the exits in case you need to leave quickly.
  • Build out a safe zone around you to avoid being trampled in the case of an emergency exit situation.
  • Never leave your drink unattended, including your water bottle, to help prevent your risk of drink spiking.

2. Stay with a buddy

Great festival memories come from shared good times, so it’s important take care of yourself and your friends.

  • Stay connected - make sure your phone is charged.
  • Agree on a meeting place in case you get separated. Don’t always rely on your phone, as your battery may run out, your phone may go missing or the network may become overloaded.
  • Make friends – this is extra important if you are attending alone.
  • Plan a safe ride home.

3. Drink responsibly

Set limits for yourself and stick to them. Don't overdo it or you could get seriously sick.

  • Drink slowly.
  • Make every second drink water. 
  • Have no more than two drinks in three hours. Learn more about Canada’s low-risk guidelines here.
  • Never accept drinks from strangers.

4. Get your drugs checked

You can never be sure of what you’re actually getting with any street drug. If you use drugs:

  • Get your drugs checked. Learn more here about where to do that.
  • Check if the concert/festival operator offers drug checking on site.
  • Use with someone or have someone check on you. Never leave your buddy alone in a tent to ‘sleep it off.’ If using with friends, stagger use or have a designated sober person.
  • Go slow – try a little bit and see how things go.
  • Don’t mix multiple drugs.
  • Don’t mix drugs with alcohol.
  • Know the signs of a toxic drug event (overdose) and how to respond.
    • Call 911 immediately.
    • Check to see if the concert/festival operator allows people to carry naloxone kits.
    • Carry Naloxone and know how to use it. Learn where to get a kit and how to use one here.

5. Safer sex

  • Consent comes before condoms. You always need a ‘YES!’ for sex. People who are intoxicated can’t provide consent. If you or a friend have experienced sexual assault or violence, find out where to get help.
  • Make condoms and lube part of your festival essentials. Condoms kept in a hot car or wallet may be compromised. If you have had unprotected sex or feel you are at risk, find out where to get tested.

6. Eat regularly and stay hydrated

It can be hot and sweaty out there, so drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

  • Not getting enough water and nutrients can cause muscle cramps and fainting; severe dehydration can send your body into shock, a life-threatening condition.
  • Alcohol and caffeine-heavy energy drinks can cause dehydration, so make every second drink water. 
  • Sports drinks or electrolyte packages can help replace nutrients that are lost in sweat.
  • It is important to take breaks to eat, drink and recharge. Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before you eat and after you use the washroom.

7. Be sun smart

The more skin you have exposed, the higher your risk of heat stroke and sunburn - even when it’s hazy or overcast. Make sure you are covered:

  • Apply sunblock with SPF 30 or higher. Don’t forget your back, ears, lips and nose. Remember to reapply every two hours or more often if you are sweating or getting wet.
  • Choose a wide brim hat with maximum sun coverage.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays to protect against eye damage.
  • Carry a long-sleeved cover-up in case you get too much sun.

 8. Chill out

Avoid the temptation to go non-stop. Prioritize the acts you most want to see, pace yourself and take breaks to eat, drink and recharge. If you, or a buddy experience the following symptoms, head to the first aid tent:

  • Weakness, dizziness or fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Skin that is pale, cool and moist

9. Hear no evil

If you have to shout over the music to be heard, find a spot further away from the speakers to protect your hearing.

  • Earplugs can help lessen the intensity of the sound.
  • If your hearing still seems dulled after 48 hours, visit your family practitioner who may refer you to an audiologist for a hearing check.

10. Come prepared

  • Wear a fanny pack and keep your ID, money, phone and other items you need close to you.
  • Bring proper, comfortable shoes. Bring bandages in case of blisters.
  • Bring any medicine you need. Depending on your health needs, consider taking antihistamines, eye drops or contact solution.
  • If you are going to use substances, including alcohol, check how your meds may interact with them.

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