Over 1 million people head to a festival every summer, and around 100,000 of these festival goers have asthma. Are you one of them? From pollen and air pollution to smoke from fires, barbecues and cigarettes, you may be exposed to more of your asthma triggers than usual at festivals, which could mean your symptoms get worse or you may have a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
And the rain isn't just something that can dampen your fun while you're watching your favourite band. If there's a thunderstorm, you're at higher risk. It's thought this is because storms can cause pollen and mould spores to be broken down into smaller particles, so they can irritate your airways more easily.
You can't control the weather, the pollen count or what other people do around you at festivals, but the one thing you can do is make sure your asthma's well managed. Taking your medicine as directed will help reduce inflammation in your lungs, which means you're less likely to react to any triggers you come across. So put a few steps in place to keep yourself safe and stop asthma symptoms spoiling the party.
Before you head off
- If you're due an asthma review, fit one in before you go so your GP or asthma nurse can check you're on the right dose of medicine and are taking it properly. If you don't already have a written asthma action plan, download one to take to your appointment so you can fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse. If you do have one, take it with you so it can be updated.
- You should also make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse if you think your symptoms have been getting worse - for example, you're coughing, wheezing and/or needing to use your reliever inhaler more than usual. These can be signs your asthma isn't well managed and could mean you're at higher risk of having an asthma attack. Use the asthma attack risk checker to see if you need to take action.
- Check your inhalers a couple of weeks before you go away. Make sure they're working and aren't about to run out. You still have time to get a new prescription if you need one.
- Around 80 percent of people with asthma tell us that they also have hay fever. If you have hay fever, pollen can trigger your immune system to overreact and release a chemical called histamine. This chemical can also make asthma symptoms worse and might even trigger a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. To prevent this from happening, make sure your hay fever's well managed and stock up on the medicines you need before you go away.
- Make a list of everything you need to pack, and remember to include your inhalers and hay fever medicine as well as your wellies!
- Read through your written asthma action plan so you know what to do if your symptoms get worse. Even better, why not store a photo on your phone of the sections that tell you what to do if your symptoms start getting worse or you have an asthma attack?
- Ask a friend who's going to the festival to be your asthma buddy. Have a frank chat with them about your asthma and how it affects you, and explain to them that they may need to help you take your reliever inhaler if you're struggling to breathe at any point. Forward them the photo of your asthma action plan so they know what to do if you have symptoms or start to experience an asthma attack.
When you get there
- Keep your reliever inhaler (usually the blue one) with you at all times, in case you start to get symptoms. Make sure you've got clothes with pockets or a bag you can easily carry it around in, so you always have your inhaler close at hand.
- If you take a preventer inhaler morning and evening, think about how you can remember to take it. For example, you could keep it in a washbag right next to your sleeping bag so it's easy to remember it, however late you get up or go to bed. Remember, it works by reducing inflammation in your airways, helping to prevent symptoms or a potentially life-threatening asthma attack so it's really important you carry on taking it as directed.
- If you need to take antihistamines to prevent hay fever symptoms, follow the same rules - keep your medicine somewhere you'll see it so you remember to take it at the right time every day. After all, you won't look your best in those festival selfies with red eyes and a runny nose!
- There can be little privacy when you're camping at a festival, but don't be embarrassed to use your inhaler in front of your friends. Remember it can help lower your risk of having asthma symptoms, which could spoil the whole festival experience.
- Asthma symptoms can be triggered by substances called histamine and sulphites found at high levels in some alcoholic drinks. Be aware that hay fever can also be triggered by the histamine in alcoholic drinks. If you're affected, make sure you avoid the drinks that trigger your symptoms.
- Read up on the links between asthma and recreational drugs. Drugs can trigger symptoms and their effects can be unpredictable, so know the facts.
In case of emergencies
- Check out the locations of the first aid tents on the festival site. Take your asthma buddy with you so they know where to go to fetch medics if you need help. Just knowing where the first aid tents are can help you feel more confident.
- Make sure your asthma buddy and your other friends know where your reliever inhaler is in case they need to grab it for you in an emergency and tell them what to do if you have an asthma attack.
- Never hesitate to get emergency help if you think your symptoms are getting worse. Don't worry about making a fuss - it's far better to get checked out than to end up having an asthma attack.
Last updated August 2016
Next review due August 2019