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Home News centre National Press Releases 2011 Press Releases ›  As Glastonbury approaches the HPA launches a festival goers guide to staying well

As Glastonbury approaches the HPA launches a festival goers guide to staying well

21 June 2011

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) wants to remind festival goers of a few 'top tips' to keep themselves healthy through the season.

Evidence from many festivals shows that most visits to the medical tents or first aiders are for minor ailments including sunburn, heat stroke, sprains, coughs, colds and the occasional case of gastrointestinal illness -  but there are occasionally reports of sexual health problems as well as other more serious illness such as heart attacks and respiratory illness.

Dr Mark Salter, a consultant in communicable disease control from the HPA's Health Protection Unit in the South West has been attending festivals, including Glastonbury, for 20 years to offer health protection advice and has devised the following top tips to help people to stay safe.

Dr Salter's top tips for surviving festivals are:

  • If you become unwell, particularly with diarrhoea and sickness, before the festival don't go as you could spread your illness to other people.
  • Make sure you use condoms with any new partners to protect yourself against any sexually transmitted infections. In 2010 there were over 200,000 cases of chlamydia, genital warts, syphilis, gonorrhoea and herpes in the 15-24 year old age group in England.
  • If you have to take medication for an existing condition make sure you take it with you as well as enough to last the duration of the festival.
  • Make yourself aware of where the health services are at the festival.
  • If you start to feel unwell while you are there seek help either from first aiders who will be present at all festivals or the other medical staff that are available at larger festivals.
  • Make sure you drink enough water and that this has been obtained from an authorised source - either potable water taps which are signposted or bottled water where the cap is sealed.
  • If it is hot and sunny wear a hat and use plenty of sunscreen to prevent sunburn and heatstroke.
  • Avoid using streams and rivers for bathing or cooling off as the water quality may not be suitable.
  • Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before eating and prior to preparing food. It is preferable to use soap and water but if that is not available then sanitising hand gel is a good substitute - bring your own and carry it around with you.
  • Take great care when using camping stoves or open fires.
  • If you are going to a festival outside the UK make sure you are up to date with your jabs and don't forget to get your travel insurance policy before you go.

Dr Salter said: "Avoid doing anything to excess is the best way to protect your health if you are visiting a festival this year."

"My experience of providing health advice and assistance at festivals for over 20 years tells me that people generally end up being unwell due to the combination of too much alcohol, drugs, sex and less than ideal hygiene.

"It is inevitable when suddenly thousands of people crowd together at a rural site with no fixed toilet system or bathing facilities and lots of alcoholic drinks that some people will become unwell as the risk of infection increases. It is therefore essential to follow good hygiene practices and wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilets.

Dr Salter continued: "Luckily most people who visit the first aid or medical tents tend to have relatively minor ailments although there are also some people with very serious medical needs who may need to go to hospital.

"The Health Protection Agency together with the local environmental health team, Primary Care Trusts, Ambulance Trusts and specific festival medical services prepare extensively for these festivals to make sure that people stay healthy during their time there. Most people enjoy it as a wonderful experience and with a little bit of thought and exercising some moderation everyone can stay well and just have a good time."

Are you thinking of going to a festival abroad this year?

If so, see what UV experts say to help protect yourself before you go.


Notes for editors:

1. Added 12 July For more top tips and advice, visit  the festival health page:

2. The figures for the top five STIs by age group can be found in this spreadsheet:

3. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.  It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. To find out more, visit our website:

4. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 020 8327 7901 or email Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 020 8200 4400.

Last reviewed: 12 July 2011