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It’s that time of year again when the young - and not so young - head off for fields across the country, to be drowned in mud or bathed in sunshine (or a mix of both) to see some of their favourite acts perform at a music festival. For all the good things about a music festival, they are also a hotbed for poor hygiene and poor decision-making. Here are a couple of the more obvious ways in which health might be put at risk at a music festival.

Sunburn A couple of festivals, if you’re lucky, might be blessed with some sunshine this summer! However, while we all like bathing in the heat, the sun’s rays can be very damaging so we need to think ahead about protecting ourselves. The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet light - UVA (wavelength 320 – 400 nm), which penetrate deep into the skin and cause premature ageing and UVB (wavelength 290 – 320 nm).

STI’s Despite 15 years of safe sex campaigns, young people in the UK have the worst sexual health record in Western Europe. This is partly due to the fact that British teenagers are losing their virginity earlier than ever before – half of all 16 year olds in this country are sexually active. And, let’s face it, the sooner you start having sex, the more partners you are likely to have, the more partners you have, the greater your risks of sexually transmitted infection.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to judge the strength of the sun. The UV index helps and is shown in a triangle on the weather forecast. Between October and March in the UK the index is rarely over 3 but in the height of summer it can reach 7. On hot days in the UK and abroad, you should keep out of the sun when it is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm, or at the very least cover up and wear lot’s of suncream. If in doubt, look at your shadow – if it’s shorter than you, the sun is strong enough to cause damage in a very short space of time.

The thing about STI’s is that they are not class or race conscious. Anyone who is having sex is at risk – believe me, the nicest people can and do catch them. As many as one in 10 young Britons are thought to have chlamydia and the frightening thing is that at least three in four women and half of all men with chlamydia will have no symptoms and therefore no idea they are infected. This not only means they are at risk of unwittingly passing the infection on but that they won’t necessarily get the treatment they need, and untreated chlamydia is the commonest preventable cause of infertility.

So please do remember, and this applies equally whether you’re at a music festival or otherwise, contraception is important! And more to the point, be sure you’re method of contraception protects against STI’s, and if it doesn’t (such as the female pill), then think about going “double Dutch” – pills or injections to prevent pregnancy and condoms to protect against STI’s.

Generally speaking, the stronger the sun protection factor the better and you certainly shouldn’t be using anything less than SPF15. SPF simply gives you an idea of how long you should be able to stay in the sun. So if you would normally burn after 10 minutes in strong sun, an SPF 15 should mean you can stay out for 15 times as long (150 minutes) but don’t push this to the limit. Prevention is better than cure and by following the above tips, you will hopefully avoid sunburn but if you have been caught unawares, keep out of the sun, drink plenty

of cold fluids and remove any excess clothing. Calomine lotion may also help soothe the skin. Alcohol Alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug across the globe and music festivals are hotbed of overindulgence. The Royal College of Physicians recommends that women should drink no more than 14 D units of alcohol per week and 21 units for men (a unit being a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer). Alcohol can damage virtually every organ in the body, but the most recognised is liver disease and for the two million or more Britons who can be described as heavy drinkers, permanent liver damage is a real risk. You don’t have to drink on a daily basis either – there is concern that binge drinkers, obviously very common at a festival, could be at greater risk of developing severe liver disease than continuous drinkers. A bit like obesity, we are drinking more as a nation now than ever before and the greatest rise in consumption is in young women. Women are more sensitive to the adverse effects of alcohol than men. I’m not suggesting total abstinence here, but take a look at your alcohol consumption and be honest – if you are regularly exceeding the recommended limits you are putting your health on the line

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Festival Health  

What you need to know about staying healthy at a music festival, from registered GP Dr Dawn Harper. For more information or to ask a questio...

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