Here's a Doctor’s Advice on How to Avoid Getting Sick at Music Festivals
Protecting their sinus cavities and looking fly doing it.
The Monday after Coachella is a historically somber day. For as thrilling as the weekend was, Monday is when most of us have to stuff our dirty caftans into a bag, get into a car with our equally exhausted friends and sit in traffic on the 10 until hitting an In-N-Out in Monterey Park and finally getting home and face-planting into bed.
For many Coachella-goers, this journey culminates with a shitty cold often referred to as “Coachella lung” — a head cold and sinus and upper respiratory infection brought on by breathing in the dust on the Polo Fields and taking less than excellent care of our bodies. It is unpleasant. It is snotty. It is nothing to Instagram.
With a weekend forecast calling for temperatures in the low 90s, Coachella 2017 looks to be characteristically sweaty and Dust Bowl-esque. That means hella dust in your lungs and sinus cavities. So what can festival-goers do to avoid getting sick?
Here, Dr. Brian Myers, a doctor at Live Well Clinic, a naturopathic and wellness center located in La Quinta, three miles from the Polo Grounds, offers tips on staying healthy during and after the festival.
Is there anything special about the dust itself on the Polo Grounds that causes “Coachella lung”?
No, there’s nothing specific about the dust, beyond the sheer amount of it. When you’re out there for three days in the hot sun and you’re kind of forgetting the normal things you do da to day to take care of your health and manage your immune system, your immune system can’t keep up. People tend to eat poorly, they don’t sleep as much, and they get really dehydrated because they’re dancing around in the sun all day. It’s a desert out here. It’s dryer than a lot of people are used to, so it takes some time for the body to accommodate. They get dehydrated, and they get this large buildup of dust in their nasal passage, and it all catches up with them.
What are some things festival-goers can do to avoid getting sick?
Have a plan for how to stay hydrated. When I go, I bring a hydration pack. It’s easy, because I always have a straw right in front of me. The second thing I do is to have a barrier. I’m one of those people who has a bandana wrapped around my face, because that helps my body, my nose hairs and my mouth filter out that large amount of dust.
The third thing would be to consider using a neti pot, which is a nasal rinse to help get rid of a lot of that excess dust. It’s a ceramic pot you run through each nostril individually. [Neti pots can be purchased at most any drug store.] You can’t use tap water; you’ve got to use the saline solution that comes with the pot. You pour the water through the opening in the pot into your nostrils, and it kind of works as a lavage to clean the sinuses. Our nose, lungs and mouth are filters for the things we’re exposed to, and a neti pot can help rinse out some of the stuff that gets clogged up in there. They get rid of that excess dust and junk so you can breath more clearly.
How important is wearing a barrier like a bandana or surgical mask?
I think it’s very important. The Polo Grounds are very dusty, especially during Coachella, and you’re breathing that in all day long. It’s just clogging everything up. That wears us down; it has an affect on our bodies. You can wear a mask, or you can just breathe it in and see what happens. I wear a mask.
What about supplements? Is there anything we can take to beef up our immune systems?
One would be acetylcysteine, or NAC, which helps thin mucus. As people are out and about and are getting dehydrated, something that could help them not get too congested from all the dust is to help thin it a little bit with some NAC. This also helps with detoxifying, so there’s an added benefit. Another thing would be a colloidal silver nasal spray. We know colloidal silver is a good immune support, and they make nasal sprays now that could help avoid any sort of infection that might come along with being around that many new people and viruses. You can find both of those things at Whole Foods or Sprouts.
What about just, like, a really hot shower at the end of the day?
Yeah, using hydrotherapy can be really helpful, too. Showers and steam do similar things: They help you sweat out toxins and help open your pores and thin mucus, as we tend to run a little bit thinner when we’re hot. Adding some essential oils can be nice to help with that. Showers are important, and steam saunas and all those things, if you have access to those.
What about people who are camping who might not be able to get a hot shower every day? Anything special they can do to protect themselves?
Yeah, nutrition. Let’s avoid things like dairy and sugar, which we know can cause more mucus.
This bandana-clad Coachella attendee isn't going to suffer on Monday!
Your clinic offers a sort of special cure for festival-goers, right?
One thing kind of novel to the medicine we practice are rehydration or hangover IVs. Getting those B vitamins, glutathione, vitamin C and just rehydrating can be really helpful. We work through the festival offering these to clients who want private services or who come in to the clinic. Some people don’t want to pay for their hangovers.
Over the last year — during Desert Trip, Stagecoach, Coachella — we’ve shown up at someone’s house or hotel room, and they’re in the fetal position hating life. At the end of the IV, they’re jumping up and down ready to go party again. They really create a dramatic difference. Hangovers happen because of vitamin and mineral depletion, dehydration and crappy sleep, because alcohol causes blood-sugar crashes. IVs fix that by replacing minerals and rehydrating, although there’s nothing you can do about sleep other than sleeping.
It’s inevitable that people are going to get home on Monday, get sick and feel like garbage all week. What's the move for people that do come down with it?
Catch up on sleep, catch up on hydration, eat mostly plants, lean proteins and lots of healthy fats. If you actually are sick, consider seeing your doctor, especially if you’re having a hard time breathing or if it’s not getting better. Most viruses self-resolve in about a week, and most sicknesses are viruses. I wouldn’t keep sniffling all of those boogers back up there. Blow them out, and use that neti pot continuously as long as you’re congested. Also just acknowledge that you’ve kind of put your body through the wringer. Don’t just expect to show up at work on Monday and be right as rain. It takes time to recover.
How many people come into your clinic post-Coachella with the symptoms we’re talking about?
That whole week and really the month afterward is pretty busy with people who are Coachella survivors.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.