​​​​​​​​​Image of Summer festivals
Ear protection at festivals and concerts is important -- for everyone! 
(Photo: Kirsztina.Konczos/Flickr)

With so many festivals happening this summer, we sat down with emergency physician Dr. Sam Sabbah to come up with the ultimate Summer Festival Guide to keep you safe while celebrating.

According to Sabbah, these types of events are frequently associated with increased emergency department visits, which he refers to as a "multifactorial phenomenon."

Sabbah attributes the incidents to the sudden increase in population and environmental factors including extreme heat and the party sub-culture, which often promotes recreational use of drugs and excessive alcohol consumption.

The key to staying safe at the next outdoor concert or carnival is to act responsibly and keep Sabbah's five tips in mind:

1. ​Keep cool, stay hydrated

Sabbah says many summer events predispose people to certain complications such as dehydration and heat exhaustion from physical over-exertion and prolonged heat exposure. The key to staying cool and hydrated:

  • Drink lots of water and cool electrolyte-containing fluids like Gatorade
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as both worsen dehydration
  • Avoid recreational drugs as many contain stimulant properties that can increase core body temperature
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing
  • Pack handheld fans or mist sprayers to keep cool
  • Plan breaks in your schedule to rest (i.e. have a meal in an air-conditioned restaurant)

If you start to experience symptoms of dehydration or heat stroke, you should seek medical attention.

2. If you're going to drink, be responsible

The use of recreational drugs in Canada is illegal, but if you choose to consume alcohol at summer festivals, please do so safely and responsibly. 

This is especially important, since, as Sabbah notes, the use of alcohol and drugs is associated with increased risk of personal injury as well as a potential threat to others.

To keep yourself and those around you safe, keep the following in mind:

  • Know your tolerance and don't push the limits
  • Avoid situations where being under the influence of alcohol or drugs could post an immediate threat to your safety like operating a motor vehicle or swimming
  • Plan ahead and use public transportation

Excessive alcohol consumption or the use of recreational drugs can cause fatal complications such as seizures, aspiration or arrhythmias. If a person is suspected of having an overdose or becomes unresponsive, call 911 immediately.

3. Buddy system

Unfortunately, sexual assault is still one of Canada's most common crimes. At events where there is high alcohol and drug use, the risk of sexual assault increases. To reduce the risk of sexual assault:

  • Use the buddy system and stick with a group of people you trust
  • Avoid isolated areas or situations with strangers
  • Have your cellphone with you at all times
  • Plan ahead for safe and reliable transportation back home

If you feel you are in danger, call out for help or call 911 for immediate assistance.

4. Protect your ears!

You might not feel it right away, but exposure to loud music can cause acoustic trauma – an injury to the hearing mechanism in the inner ear.  

"Acoustic trauma causes partial hearing loss or ringing in the ears," said Sabbah. "This hearing loss may be permanent and progressive, especially with continuous exposure to loud noises."

Sabbah suggests purchasing protective ear plugs if you plan on attending a string of concerts this summer. Check out The Wall Street Journal's list of Earplugs that Rock​.

5. Wash your hands

Doctors say it all the time, but are you doing it? If you don't wash your hands or sanitize frequently at outdoor festivals, you might end up going home with more than just a swag bag.

"The crowded conditions that are common during these festivals increase the potential for exposure to infectious diseases and outbreaks like gastroenteritis and respiratory illnesses," said Sabbah. "Frequent hand washing can help reduce the spread of germs."

Stay tuned for the next edition of Summer Health Series on July 1.

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