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Festival health tips from Warwick Medical School

Festival-goers are being given a list of top tips or what’s known as the ‘Pick of the Docs’ from the doctors at Warwick Medical School to ensure their music festival experience is a healthy one this summer.

Their ‘top tips’ cover sun damage prevention; staying germ-free; eating and drinking healthily and avoiding drugs and unprotected sex and have been compiled by the experts who teach and train student medics at the University of Warwick.

Dr Neil Johnson, Pro-dean at Warwick Medical School and a practising GP, explained: “It’s automatic to remember to keep your cash and personal belongings safe but we tend to forget about keeping our bodies healthy – especially when we are living in a tent in a field with thousands of other music fans for a weekend.

“So we want to remind people to stay healthy this summer and hope that Warwick’s ‘Pick of the Docs’ will make everyone more aware of health issues whilst they enjoy the music in the sunshine and avoid ending up with conditions such as sunburn, food poisoning or dehydration.”

Their top tips are:
1) Use at least Factor 30 sun cream
Don’t under-estimate the damage that can be done to your skin by over-exposure to the sun and even when it’s cloudy, you are still at risk from UVA and UVB rays. So always use sun cream which is at least Factor 30 when you are outside and reapply it often. Also apply sun blocks to sensitive areas such as lips and around the eyes.

2) Wear a hat
Hats can protect your scalp and neck so even if you’ve got a full head of hair you need to cover up; it’s not just those who are follicly challenged who should wear a hat. Skin cancers are becoming more common on noses, ears and the neck.

3) Take a selection of clothes
The sun’s UV rays are powerful and can penetrate some fabrics. Make sure you pack clothes which can offer coverage and protection from the sun. White is not always right for being out in full sunshine and UV rays can penetrate some white fabrics. Basal cell cancer and melanomas – the two most common forms of skin cancer - are regularly found on peoples’ backs. An umbrella can double as a sunshade so pack one even if rain isn’t forecast.
If the rainclouds do appear, waterproofs and warm clothing are essential. People can get hypothermia at festivals when the temperature drops at night, especially if their clothes are damp from sweat or you’ve been out in the rain.

4) Keep hydrated
As the temperature rises, you sweat more and your fluid requirements increase. On a normal day it is recommended that you drink about 2L of fluids a day (2.5L for men), and this increases depending on how active you are so if you are dancing and walking around lots you will need more.
Relying on feeling thirsty is too late – dehydration has already kicked in, so ensure you drink regularly. Consider carrying a water bottle with you, however, all fluids count towards hydration, so squash, juice, milk, tea, coffee or soft drinks all count. But go easy on the alcohol; it speeds up fluid loss. If you are worried that your kidneys might not be handling the pace of the festival, you will soon tell by the colour of your urine – if you are hydrated it should be the colour of pale straw. Dark wee means you need to drink more water!

5) Eat well
Festivals these days tend to be abundant with food outlets, so shortage of food is rarely the problem. However 2-3 days of burgers or fried foods will take its toll on your weight, your guts and your breath! While no lasting damage is likely to occur from a few days of indulgence, check out these tips to ease the impact on your body:
• Take some fruit with you for snacking. Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content and so can top up fluid intakes e.g. watermelon and pineapples.
• If you are watching the calories, sitting and concentrating on your food will prevent you unwittingly over-eating whilst you wander around. Enjoying your meal and letting your body register the food consumed will help curb grazing.
• Look out for the veggie stalls – BBQ corn on the cob, grilled aubergines and falafel is filling, lower in fat and will help to keep your digestion moving too.

6) Germs and Anti-bac
Reduce your risk of picking up or spreading germs that cause sickness and diarrhoea by washing your hands before you eat and after you go to the toilet. Wash your hands if you’ve been handling rubbish. Bring wet wipes and antibacterial hand gel to use on your hands. It’s worth packing some plasters to your back-pack and some antiseptic cream for minor cuts and grazes as well as antihistamines for bites or allergies.

7) Take care of your feet
Music festivals can be hard on your feet so you need the right footwear. Much of the day is spent standing, walking between different fields and stages or dancing. If the weather is wet it’s important to keep feet as clean and dry as possible to prevent problems such as blisters, fungal infections or even trench foot which develops after prolonged exposure to the wet and cold. Take waterproof wellies and a supply of dry socks. Flip-flops are not good festival shoes!

8) Take your medication
There is normally a First Aid tent at festivals but staff are not allowed to issue medication except basic over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol. If you're on any medication, bring a supply with you and take it as prescribed. If you’re asthmatic, don’t forget your inhaler and spare cartridges and if you have diabetes make sure you take your medication and watch what, and how regularly, you are eating.

9) Stay away from drugs.
Paramedics and A&E Departments end up dealing with the consequences of people who have taken drugs at music festivals. You should stay away from drugs and resist the temptation to try them as you don't know for sure what you are taking or how you will react to them and you run the risk of becoming very ill.

10) Don't have unprotected sex.
When you are out in the summer and having fun it's easily to forget these things. Always carry condoms with you. If you had unprotected sex, go to the doctor and immediately get the morning after pill (women) and get tested for any unwanted sexually transmitted diseases (men and women). When you get home, visit your local GU clinic. Address of your nearest one can be found here:

The Warwick Medical School experts who have contributed to this list are:
Dr Andrew Herd, Coventry GP and clinical lecturer on skin cancer
Professor Matthew Cooke, Professor of Emergency Care and voted one of the UK’s top 100 doctors in a recent Times survey
Dr Beckie Lang, Registered Nutritionist, University of Warwick
Dr Mike Walzman, Consultant in GU Medicine, George Eliot Hospital
Dr Dan Natin, Consultant in GU Medicine, Warwick Hospital
Professor Neil Johnson, Pro-Dean of Education, Warwick Medical School.

Warwick Medical School was recently ranked top 12th Medical School in the UK and is highly regarded for its teaching excellence and national and internationally recognised research

For further information or to request an interview with any of the Medical School experts mentioned above, contact Kate Cox, Communications Manager on +44 (0)2476 574255/150483, m: +44(0)7920 531221 or