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Keeping Your Cool: How to Avoid Heatstroke at Your Next Festival

By: Idean Rezaei

Desert Sunset at Burning Man Festival-Courtesy of Jim Urquhart

Festivals around the world can have different artists, layouts, and even genres of music. There however is one thing that most festivals have in common, HEAT!!! From the toasty summer sun, to the thousands of warm bodies gyrating around close together, we have come to expect festivals to be essentially huge outdoor saunas. For some this makes for a good opportunity to jump around with friends and have an amazing time. Unfortunately, it could also end up in a trip to the hospital or worse, with alcohol, medications, and other substances only increasing your risk. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a doctor to understand how running a high body temperature could mean trouble as well as what you can do to prevent it.

Heat stroke is a condition in which your body temperature rises to over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature your organs cannot function properly and begin to shut down. If left untreated you risk permanent damage to your brain, kidneys, heart, or even death. Thankfully, there are many warning signs that you can pick up on before you reach this point.

The first stage are heat cramps. As the name suggests you will start to have severe muscle cramps as a result of salt and water loss. These spasms will eventually stop on their own but then you will move on to the next stage, heat exhaustion. This stage is when your body temperature reaches 101-104 degrees Fahrenheit with the symptoms including headache, nausea, thirst (not the sexual kind), and muscle aches. Finally, you will reach the final stage of heat stroke, this is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention since this is where your organs start to shut down. You may start to feel confused, stop sweating, or even start to have seizures. If not immediately treated this stage can be fatal.

Hydration Tent at EDC- Courtesy of Insomniac

Thankfully, this is all easily preventable. When thinking about what you are going to wear, make sure it is light both in weight and color. Dark-colored clothes will absorb more of the sun’s heat. Also, make sure you look up a map of the fest as it will probably have the locations of all the medical tents. Check to see if the festival has any cooling tents. If there are no none, then look around for any shaded areas you can go to rest. It may have been a while since you’ve been to a festival with all that has happened over the past year, just know that there is no shame in pacing yourself. Make sure you bring along a water bottle and take note of any water refill stations. You should also include a few snacks in your bag as well. This should go without saying but please do not forget sunscreen, sunburns may not be as serious as a heat stroke but its still something you shouldn’t have to suffer through and many times they just plain suck.

Let’s say you follow all these tips and feel just fine but someone in your crew did not read this article and is starting to show symptoms of heat exhaustion. What you should do is get them to a shaded cool area and give them a cold drink of water with some snacks to replace any lost electrolytes. If they refuse water, stop sweating, seem confused, or vomit then immediately seek out on-site medical personnel or call 911. In the meantime, douse them with cold water. If you have ice then soak a towel in the ice then press it on their body. Hold it for no more than 20 minutes.

What could be a much needed amazing weekend does not need to be marred by a life threatening situation. Even if it does not happen to you, the image of a friend being wheeled away to the hospital is sure to dampen your spirits, or at least it should. Keeping these tips in mind can help you make sure you only make positive memories of the festival.

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