Health warnings for festival goers

Gas Safe Register warns of the dangers of carbon monoxide following several campsite deaths and CO poisoning incidents

  • NHS Choices advises how to avoid falling ill or getting injured, following a high number of incidents throughout last year’s festival season

Heading to a festival this year? Then don’t be one of the thousands taken ill, injured, or worse, killed. Last year St. John’s Ambulance treated almost four thousand people at festivals where it was the designated first aid provider. In addition, there have been at least 24 incidents of people being poisoned and dying from exposure to carbon monoxide caused by barbeque and gas camping equipment in campsites in the past twelve months.

To try and help revellers stay safe and have fun, NHS Choices – the health information website for the NHS – and Gas Safe Register – the government approved gas registration body – have published separate safety guides offering practical tips on how to stay festival safe.

When fuels such as charcoal, gas or petrol are burnt incompletely they cause carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. This is a highly poisonous gas which can kill quickly, especially in areas where there is not enough air supply. In the last year, there have been seven deaths and seventeen injuries in campsites from misuse of barbeques, including the recent and tragic death of 14-year-old Hannah Thomas-Jones, who died in May 2012 after her family took their disposable BBQ into their tent to keep warm.

Gas Safe Register has published a guide on BBQ and camping safety, available which includes the following top tips:

  1. Never take a smouldering or lit BBQ (charcoal or gas) or gas stove, light or heater into a tent, caravan or cabin, unless it is a permanent fixture, installed and maintained correctly. Even if you have finished cooking, your BBQ will still give off fumes for some hours after use.
  2. Place your cooking area well away from your tent. Always ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air where the BBQ is being used.
  3. Remember the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness. If concerned seek medical advice.
  4. If using a gas appliance check that the appliance is in good order, undamaged and, where present, that hoses are properly attached and undamaged. If in doubt get the hoses replaced or don’t use it.
  5. If using a gas appliance, make sure the gas taps or cylinder valve are turned off before changing the gas cylinder. Only do it in the open air. Don’t over-tighten joints.

Too much alcohol, sun and sex, can also be a health risk at festivals, warns NHS Choices. According to St John’s Ambulance, a lot of injuries and illnesses treated at festivals could be avoided.

NHS Choices has published a guide on festival safety, available, and includes the following advice:

  1. Drink sensibly – stick within your recommended limits, and drink plenty of water to avoid a nasty hangover.
  2. Keep your medication safe – if you take medication, make sure you take it with you and store it safely.
  3. Stay clean – reduce your risk of picking up nasty germs and spreading disease by washing your hands regularly and using antibacterial gel.
  4. Sex – Stay safe and use a condom to prevent STIs and pregnancy. If you need emergency contraception, go to the festival medical centre.
  5. Keep feet dry – to prevent fungal infections, give your feet a break from damp warm wellies and change your socks regularly.
  6. Stay connected – mobile reception can be unreliable at festivals, set a pre-arranged meeting place so you don’t lose your friends.
  7. Give your ears a break – speakers around stages can reach 110 decibels. So if you do get close to speakers, wear ear plugs.
  8. Be sensible in the sun – don’t forget to wear sunscreen, drink water and keep covered up to prevent, sunburn and sunstroke.
  9. Stay hydrated – always drink plenty of water. The combination of sun, dancing, and alcohol can leave you feeling dizzy, and dehydrated.
  10. Know where your medical centre is – when you arrive on site find out where your nearest medical centre is so that if you have an accident you can seek h