Charities urge festival goers to breathe easy at Glastonbury

Asthma UK and Festival Medical Services have released data today showing that on average more than 130 people are treated for respiratory issues at Glastonbury festival every year [1].

With Glastonbury just around the corner, the charities are warning people with asthma - and other respiratory conditions - to be prepared so they make the most out of their festival fun this summer. Up to 80% of people with asthma also have hayfever, putting them at increased risk of a potentially fatal asthma attack because the body's allergic reaction to pollen can trigger asthma symptoms. However, a few simple steps now will reduce that risk and make all the difference.

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, says: "Traditionally the peak in the pollen season tends to coincide with the last week in June every year which is why people with asthma and hay fever going to Glastonbury need to take notice. Whilst it's impossible to avoid all asthma triggers, if you are taking the right medicines at the right dose then you should be able to manage day-to-day without any asthma symptoms. If you are wheezing, coughing, waking at night or feel tightness in your chest now then you need to speak to your GP or asthma nurse before you start packing your bags."

Dr Chris Howes, who has been in charge of medical services at Glastonbury since 1979, adds: "Asthma is not a condition to be taken lightly and it can sometimes get worse very quickly and unexpectedly. We have often seen an increased number of cases in dry dusty conditions, but also after thunderstorms.

"We urge people with asthma attending the festival to carry their reliever medication with them all the time and to make sure they know where the medical facilities are, just in case they run into trouble. If they do forget their medication, they can get it at our pharmacy. Even if they can't remember what it is, we can usually find out for them as we have access to the NHS Summary Care Record."

Asthma UK and Festival Medical Services' Top Festival Survival Tips

  • Make an appointment with your GP or nurse now so they can check you are on the right treatment, that you are taking the right dose, and whether or not you also need other prescription hay fever medicines. By getting on top of your asthma now you should be able to enjoy the rest of the summer symptom-free.
  • Alcohol can make asthma and hayfever worse so if you find that certain drinks have a bad effect on your lungs (not just your head!) then it's best to avoid these [2]. Clear spirits like gin and vodka are better options as they're very low in histamines and sulphites which can trigger asthma symptoms. White wine and cider tend to have high levels of sulphites, while red wine and some beers have high levels of histamine.
  • The best way to build resilience to any asthma trigger is to take your preventer inhaler daily, as prescribed by your GP or asthma nurse. This medicine helps to stop asthma attacks so needs to be taken every day to have an effect. If you're not currently taking yours there's no better time to start and don't forget your routine when you're away get into the habit of taking it every day so you stay out of trouble.
  • It's also vital you carry your reliever inhaler on you so that if you do have an attack you can treat it immediately. Remember to check a few days before you pack that it's working and still within date so you have time to get a new one from the pharmacy before you head off.
  • Know the signs that your asthma is getting worse and what to do if you do have an attack; it's also worth making sure your friends know what to do too. When you arrive (or even before you go!) it's worth familiarising yourself with the location of the medical facilities for reassurance. There are medical facilities all-round the Glastonbury Festival site: The main medical centre is at Big Ground and has a dispensing pharmacy but you can also see a doctor or a nurse at the units in Park Home, Silver Hayes, Cabaret or Williams Green. Stewards, security or the police will be able to direct you to the nearest place where you can get help.

Top asthma festival triggers include smoke from cooking food and cigarettes (a trigger for 82% of people with asthma), pollen (a trigger for 79% of people), the dreaded mass exodus on the Sunday can cause an increase in traffic fumes (66% of people are affected) and 22% find that certain foods can make their asthma worse.

If the weather is nice then pollen levels may be high but even with a wet Glastonbury there are still reasons to be concerned thunderstorms can be a huge issue for people with asthma as warm air currents pull pollen high up into the atmosphere which then explodes into much smaller particles during storms research shows that there are increases in hospital admissions for people with asthma after thunderstorms. At the end of June 2005 a six-fold rise in the number of emergency admissions for asthma was reported over one weekend as the result of thunderstorms, (the year with the second highest number of people needing treatment for respiratory issues at Glastonbury). 

Find out more about asthma and festivals.

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For more information, contact the Asthma UK media team on 020 7786 4949 or mediaoffice@asthma.org.uk. For out of hours enquiries, call 07951 721393.

Notes to editors:

1. Health data from Glastonbury Festival provided by Festival Medical Services. All respiratory presentations (includes asthma):

2014: 89
2013: 26
2012:
2011: 122
2010: N/R
2009: N/R
2008: N/R
2007: 111
2006:
2005: 196
2004: 100
2003: 116
2002: 166
2001:
2000: 184
1999: 221

2. Alcoholic drinks contain a natural food chemical called histamine; the same substance that's released in the body when you have an allergic reaction. In some people, the histamine in alcohol may trigger asthma symptoms. Preservatives called sulphites are added to some alcoholic drinks which can trigger symptoms varying from mild wheezing to a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

3. Asthma warning over thunderstorms

About Asthma UK

  • Asthma UK's mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack
  • Asthma UK is solely funded by public donations
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk

About Festival Medical Services

Festival Medical Services(FMS) is a registered medical charity, whose clinical volunteers are skilled and experienced health professionals. We provide quality event medical services and all levels of medical care in a challenging environment. FMS supports charitable projects around the world. www.festival-medical.org

Background information on asthma