With the almighty Glastonbury last weekend and many more to come, the festival season is now well and truly underway and we thought how better to get you in the mood than with a guide to managing your allergy while enjoying the music, fun and (hopefully) sunshine.
We asked Anaphylaxis Campaign supporter and and awardwinning allergy blogger Leo for his thoughts on festivalling with an allergy. He said; “I have been to festivals and have had to face my allergy during them. I love festivals and wouldn't let my allergy stand in my way of going.”
There’s no reason why having a severe allergy should stop you getting your wellies on and getting stuck in to a great festival this summer. So here’s 6 things you should know before you go:
Before you go
Festivals often have security measures in place on entering the venue or site. This can mean bag checks as security staff will be on the lookout for anything dangerous or unusual. As with going on holiday, it could be useful to get a note from your GP explaining exactly why you need to carry your adrenaline auto-injector, in case any misinformed bouncers want to take it off you thinking it’s something much more untoward!
When you get there
Do a quick scan on the site or a site map, locating and keeping in mind the nearest medical tents to your chosen camp site and be aware of where you are in relation to these whenever possible.
On arrival, it may be worth taking a trip down to the nearest medical or staff tent to your campsite and introducing yourself to the team, explaining your condition. This means you’ll be on their radar if anything happens, which can never be a bad thing.
Always carry two prescribed adrenaline auto- injectors (Emerade, EpiPen or Jext) on you at all times. Try not to leave them in your tent if you’re camping for the weekend, but instead carry it around with you. There are a so many cool carriers and cases that allow you to clip it on to belt loops, clothing or keep it safe in bags if you’re stuck for where to keep it, but for Leo, the old favourite is still a winner. “Bring a backpack - it can be a pain carrying adrenaline around with you at a festival, but I found that the best way that it could be managed was to carry a backpack, which means you can also carry your antihistamines, food, water, money and all the other essentials too.” This might sound optimistic, but some types of adrenaline auto-injectors need protecting from extremes of temperature. Check out our medications page to find out about yours.
Keep your friends in the loop
Make sure the friends and people you’re going with all know about your allergy and how serious it can be. This way they’ll know to be extra careful and be better able to help you if something does happen.
Bear in mind that festivals can be extremely busy places and getting lost and separated is always a possibility. Preparing for this is all about thinking ahead. The best thing you can do is to wear medical alert bracelets or jewellery displaying your allergies and treatment, or carry a card with this information in your pocket or wallet in case you’re in need and can’t find anyone you know. Having an emergency contact both at the festival and one who is not but would be able to help, like a family member, is also useful, so make sure to list their contact details alongside your other information, too.
Finding something to eat at a festival can be tricky if you’ve got a food allergy but there are things you can do to help prevent an accidental reaction. You could contact the festival’s organisers beforehand and see if they can provide you with a list of food suppliers who will be there on the day. That way you can scope out if there’s something you can chow down on when you’re there.
Alternatively, you could take your own food. Nut allergy sufferer Leo says, “It’s really hard to find festival food that doesn't contain or may contain nuts! It's generally ethnic food and a lot of it is vegetarian and nutty.” So what can you take? Depending on what you’re allergic to, try instant noodles, sandwiches, or your personal safe snacks like crisps or even fresh fruits – anything that you know you can eat.
At festivals where there is a town nearby, try heading away from the crowds to find fast food joints or supermarkets where they should be able to tell you what’s in what.
In an emergency
If you think you’re having a reaction then follow these tips:
- Stay calm and stay with friends – don’t take yourself off on your own but stay with others who can help you
- Get a friend to look for a member of the festival staff – stewards or security would be best, but this could also be programme sellers or bar staff – as they will likely have a walkie talkie on them to contact the medical tent or have a good knowledge of the site and how best to get medical attention. If you’re feeling dizzy/faint, you should stay where you are and lie down
- If in doubt, use your adrenaline! Adrenaline may be artificially manufactured as a treatment for anaphylaxis, but it is first and foremost a natural hormone present in your body in a variety of situations, from mild nerves during a class presentation to exerting yourself through exercise and sports, so you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Just remember to always call 999 and seek medical help after use
General festival tips
- Try taking baby wipes and antibacterial gel – best for when you can’t find a sink to wash your hands or a shower to get clean in!
- Don’t eat or drink anything that you don’t know where it came from – or what’s in it… take it from us, that’s just a good general life principle, but doubly important if you also have allergies.
- Make plans for where to meet friends if you get separated and always carry your mobile phone on you in case of an emergency.
- Most importantly…have fun! Festivals are there to be enjoyed, so do the right prep and there’s no reason why you can’t get in on the action!