Summertime marks the start of festival season. I‘m sure many of you have just got back from one or are about to embark on either a weekend full of music camping in a field or spending the day trying delicious food from across the world or watching a range of outdoor films.
The high amount of human traffic can make festivals an unhygienic place to be. Luckily for you, we have 9 tips to ensure you stay clean and healthy whilst you enjoy your festival.
Keeping clean is one of the chores of a crowded music festival. It is made more difficult by the queues for showers, sinks and water, the distances you may have to walk to get to them and the weather.
A basic list of what to take for personal cleanliness includes:
- wet wipes;
- alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- toothbrush and toothpaste;
- toilet tissue
Additionally, it is also wise to take liquid soap and a hand cloth or flannel for basic body cleaning and plastic bags to store dirty clothes in.
2. Clean Hands
It is easy to get mucky hands at festivals, sitting in fields, handling sticky food and often muddy clothing. The majority of infections causing sickness and diarrhoea are due to poor hand hygiene, so remember to wash your hands at regular intervals and at the appropriate times, ie before eating and after going to the toilet.
Soap and water are the best options to properly clean your hands as it helps to remove/inactivate certain common infectious microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. However, we all know that this isn‘t always accessible at a festival. Because of this, it‘s a good idea to carry some hand sanitizer around with you, particularly an alcohol-based one.
Water is a basic material for maintaining hygiene. Stock up with plenty of clean water in your tent, for drinking and cleaning bodies, utensils for eating and cooking and dirty surfaces.
Festivals will have taps around the site for visitors. Collapsible water containers are light and easy to carry to the site, while clean plastic 1 or 2-litre drinks bottles are lighter for carrying around and easier to fill.
Always carry a bottle of water around with you for rehydration in hot weather and after drinking alcohol. It can also be used for cleaning hands from dirt, mud or food when away from your tent or washing facilities.
Festival toilets are the worst part of a festival experience, especially during the last day. They are obviously one of the major hygiene hazards at any festival.
You can stay hygienic at a festival when using the toilets by:
- Using your own toilet paper;
- Using sleeves, elbows or toilet paper to touch door handles and taps;
- Remembering to wash your hands properly.
To pee or not to pee, that is an indiscretion!
When you are dying to go for a pee, finding a discrete place may be the obvious choice, especially in the middle of the night, as it‘s quicker than walking or queueing for a toilet. But it is unhygienic for others and, because of the large numbers of people on site, pollutes the ground. It can even reach the water table and affect wildlife and fish in nearby rivers.
Glastonbury Festival runs a “Don‘t Pee” campaign to persuade festival goers to only use the toilets and protect the land at the Worthy Farm festival site.
Keeping dry and staying warm at festivals is obvious from a comfort point of view , but it is also important for preventing fungal and other infections. Take a towel or two for drying off after washing or if you are wet from rain, especially at night so you sleep dry.
A cloth towel can also be used as an extra layer on your sleeping bag if it gets chilly, a shoulder wrap and sun shade when walking around. In fact, a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar festival goer can have (with apologies to the Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy).
Don‘t panic and take a towel!
6. Food stalls
Most festivals have an amazing range of tempting food for every taste and, despite the high prices, it‘s hard to avoid eating from the onsite food stalls. However, you don‘t want to come away with more than you bargained for ”” food poisoning.
You can avoid developing food poisoning by:
- Checking the food hygiene rating of the food truck or van (required in the UK). Only eat at stalls with a 4 or 5.
- Looking out for pests such as flies.
- Eating food whilst it is hot.
- Choosing food stalls where food is cooked fresh in front of you.
- Check the smell ”” does the food smell or taste off? Stop eating, take it back and complain or throw it away. The loss is better than being ill far from toilets or conversely stuck in toilets or tent away from the music!
- Looking around the stall to make sure it looks clean and well kept.
- Watching the staff: do they wash their hands after handling money or other dirty things and before serving food with their hands? If so, then move on.
If you do get ill, go to the medical centre to get treatment and tell them where you think you picked up the infection, to stop the food stall from making more people ill and ruining their trip. This is important as food poisoning can spread rapidly with a high concentration of people in unhygienic conditions.
7. Food in tents
One of the best things when camping is an early morning bacon buttie (sorry vegetarians) and a cup of tea to start the day before the long trek to the stages. Bringing and preparing your own food is obviously a lot cheaper than buying from onsite stalls, but has some risks because camping is not an ideal situation for storing and preparing food.
Some food hygiene tips for festivals are:
- Keep raw foods in a cool box, or alternatively, opt for canned foods such as baked beans.
- Keep food covered or in containers to prevent contamination from pests.
- Cook raw meat thoroughly; make sure meat, especially chicken, is cooked through and there is no red meat or blood.
- Prevent cross contamination from raw meat to other foods, via your hands, containers, utensils, packaging, cloths, chopping boards and other surfaces.
- Wash your hands properly before and after preparing food
- Clean and properly dry used eating, drinking and food preparation utensils
- Soil contamination: keep mud and soil away from food, surfaces, and hands while eating.
8. Happy Feet
Feet can receive a heavy pounding from walking around music festivals to get between tents, music stages, food areas, toilets, local shops and other activity areas.
Depending on where you live wellies are a festival essential (especially if you live in England). They will help you tackle the endless supply of mud, as well as help, keep your feet dry.
The appropriate footwear such as a pair of wellies or a comfortable set of trainers, along with a good supply of dry socks will help prevent fungal infections, blisters, and other foot conditions.
9. Insect pests
The summer festival season is also the high season for undesirable insect populations such as house flies and dung flies that can spread disease through contaminating food and surfaces. Horse flies, wasps and mosquitoes can also inflict bites or stings.
For more information on hygiene and health see the NHS festival survival guide.