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Festival season: St John Ambulance shares first aid advice on how to keep you and your friends safe

Festival season is once again upon us, but as the tents go up and the wellies come out, it’s important to stay safe this summer. So, whether you’re heading to Glastonbury, Beyond Festival or British Summer Time this weekend, leading first aid and health response charity St John Ambulance has issued some simple, but lifesaving festival first aid advice. 

Injuries at festivals vary from  heat exhaustion,  sprained ankles, through to dehydration from lack of water. However, more serious illnesses such as heat stroke, alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses can occur too.  

Dr Lynn Thomas, Medical Director for St John Ambulance, shares her advice on staying safe at festivals this year: 

“We’re excited to welcome back festival season and want everyone to enjoy themselves, especially as many will be opening its doors for the first time in two years.

“But while you’re listening to some amazing live performances from your favourite acts with friends, we ask for you to please look after one another. 

“Pace yourself. Keep an eye on how much you and your friends are drinking. If you are worried about a friend for any reason, please do seek medical advice from festival staff. They’re there to help and may be able to prevent something from becoming more serious. 

“When packing, make sure you come prepared. Check the weather forecast and if it’s looking like it’s going to be sunny make sure to bring suncream and a hat. In warmer weather, you can look after yourself by staying hydrated with water and keeping out of the sun at peak times.” 

St John shares top tips for looking after your friends, alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses and dehydration this year: 

Look out for your friends 

When you’re heading to a festival, the last thing you want to consider is that something might go wrong but it’s important to make sure that you are prepared. Below are some tips on how you and your friends can stay safe when you're out watching your favourite bands and DJs:  

  1. Don’t leave anyone alone  
  2. Phone signal can often be lost at festivals, so arrange a meeting point so if you do get separated from your friends, you know where to go.  
  3. If you have used recreational drugs, it’s important to tell your friends what you have taken and when. 
  4. Make sure you look out for each other and be prepared to tell someone they have reached their limit.  

Alcohol poisoning  

Consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time can lead to alcohol poisoning. This can severely impair mental and physical body functions, like sight, speech, coordination and memory. Alcohol poisoning is dangerous and can also make people unresponsive.  

How to spot signs for alcohol poisoning:  

It's important to stay safe. These signs may mean someone has alcohol poisoning: 

  1. A strong smell of alcohol 
  2. Confusion and slurred speech 
  3. Vomiting 
  4. Reddened and moist face 
  5. Deep, noisy breathing and a bounding pulse 
  6. Unresponsiveness 

How to treat alcohol poisoning:   

  1. Make sure it’s safe to approach. Reassure them, keep them warm. 
  2. If they’re breathing normally but are not fully responsive, put them in the recovery position. Check for other injuries. 
  3. Keep checking their breathing and responsiveness. If you are worried, call 999/112 and get help from festival staff. 
  4. Don’t try to make them be sick 
  5. If they stop breathing normally, prepare to give CPR. 

Drug poisoning  

The effects will be different depending on the type of drug and how the person has taken it 

If you think someone may have drug poisoning, these are 10 common things to look for: 

  1. Sleepiness leading to unresponsiveness 
  2. Shallow breathing 
  3. Unusually slow, or irregular, or fast pulse 
  4. Excitable, hyperactive behaviour 
  5. Confusion and delirium 
  6. Unusually large or small pupils 
  7. Tremors; seizures 
  8. Hallucinations ‒ they may 'hear voices' or 'see things' no one else can 
  9. Sweating 
  10. stomach pain, nausea and vomiting 

How to treat drug poisoning: 

  1. If they are responsive, make sure they’re comfortable, ask what they’ve taken. 
  2. Call 999/112 for emergency help and get help from festival staff. 
  3. Keep checking their breathing, pulse and responsiveness. 
  4. Don’t make them sick, but if they are sick, put some in a bag to give to the healthcare professionals. 
  5. Gather as much information as you can. 
  6. If they become unresponsive, open their airway, check breathing and prepare to start CPR 


Dehydration happens when someone loses more fluid than they take in, especially if it’s really hot and sweaty outside, so make sure you’re sipping lots of water at regular intervals.   

How to spot dehydration:    

There are four key things to look for if someone is suffering from dehydration:   

  1. They may complain of headaches and light headedness   
  2. Dry mouth, eyes and lips   
  3. Pass only small amounts of dark urine   
  4. Have muscle cramps   

How to treat dehydration:    

  1. Help them to sit down and give them plenty of water to drink.   
  2. Giving them an oral rehydration solution to drink will help replace salt and other minerals which they’ve lost – you can buy this in sachets from any pharmacy.   
  3. If they have any painful cramps, encourage them to rest, help them stretch and massage their muscles that hurt.   
  4. Keep checking how they’re feeling – if they still feel unwell once they’re rehydrated then encourage them to see a healthcare professional straight away.   
  5. If left untreated, someone with dehydration can develop heat exhaustion, which is more serious, so it’s important to make sure they rehydrate themselves as soon as possible. 

 For more first aid advice visit www.sja.org.uk, or to keep up with the latest St John news by searching #AskMe.