What is festival flu and how to avoid it

What is festival flu? Is it real? Is preventing festival flu possible? Find out everything you need to know about that post-festival discomfort here.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 20th Jun 2024

Whether you’re a festival veteran or a festival virgin, with festival season now in full swing, chances are you’ve heard about “festival flu”. Or maybe you even feel like you’ve had it yourself. 

So what is “festival flu”, is it real and, if so, how do we prevent it? 

Spoiler alert: festival flu isn’t really a proper illness. But still, some people do feel rough after five days of singing, dancing, moshing, standing, trekking about, barely sleeping, and chowing down on nothing but cheeseburgers. The phrase “no sh*t” might come to mind, which is valid, but if we can prevent that feeling then we might as well give it a go. 


What is festival flu? 


Photo: Rex Pickar / Unsplash.com

So, when you wake up in your tent, still on the festival grounds after three to five days of pure chaos, you might wake up feeling rough. Or maybe that feeling doesn’t kick in until you’re home, showered, well-fed, and have woken up the next morning in your cosy, warm bed. The name festivalgoers have given to that feeling is “festival flu”.

Across the pond, festival flu is usually called “Coachella Cough” as Coachella is a festival which happens in the desert, surrounded by dust. Exposure to a lot of dust can give us coughs. We’ll get into how to prevent that later. 

While it’s possible to get a cold or another illness at a festival - bearing in mind you’re in a field, sharing facilities with thousands of other people - festival flu isn’t an official term or even a proper diagnosis, it’s essentially just slang that helps us explain how we’re feeling after a few days of going wild. So, essentially, festival flu in and of itself is not a proper illness. But, at times, it might feel like it is.


Symptoms of festival flu


Photo: cottonbro studio / Pexels.com

Some of the most common symptoms of “festival flu” include cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, body aches, and fever. It usually lasts a couple of days after the event, possibly a week. Looking at those symptoms, we’re hoping that calms you down a bit. They aren’t too bad! But most importantly, they can pretty easily be explained…


What causes it and how to prevent festival flu 


Photo: Jade Masri / Unsplash.com 

As we mentioned, going to a festival, many of which are outdoors and exposed to the elements, and with most of us being... not exactly on our best behaviour, there are a few factors that could cause those symptoms. 

First of all, if you’re going to a festival, especially an outdoor one, there could be mud, mould, grass, weeds, and other allergens about. Rain can make allergy symptoms worse as it hits the grass and weed pollen, breaking the pollen up into smaller particles and spreading it more easily. Rain can also worsen dust and mould allergy symptoms. Thanks, British weather!

Typical hay fever and other seasonal allergies/pollen can cause a few of the festival flu symptoms listed above. And some people can randomly develop hay fever after never having it their whole lives. If you know you have seasonal allergies, take antihistamines during the fest and in the lead-up to the event. Starting to take them earlier in the year than you usually do could help, too. Saline nose sprays and eyedrops can help with some of those painfully annoying symptoms like a runny nose and itchy eyes. Smoke, including second-hand smoke, can also irritate your airways, worsening symptoms, so you might want to avoid all smoke. A mask or bandana covering your mouth and nose can help reduce the effects of allergens, as can wrap-around sunglasses or goggles, and a hat to keep pollen away from your hair. 


To prevent festival flu, take care of your immune system. It can be tricky since there aren’t many vegetables about plus dirt and booze aplenty but it’s key. You can help your immune system by limiting your alcohol intake (sorry), not smoking or vaping (sorry again), getting plenty of sleep in dry and warm conditions, eating healthy food where possible (pro tip: bring oranges if you’re camping!), supplementing with vitamins, and staying as clean as you can. So don’t be getting leathered, sliding through mud on your belly like a penguin, and living off chips. 

Check out the best festival foods to find more tips on what scran to take to your next fest 

Strengthening your immune system before the fest by eating and sleeping well, avoiding alcohol, and exercising can help, too. In that case, you’ll have a much better chance of leaving the festival feeling like a human instead of a shell of one. 


Many festival flu symptoms, such as body aches and sore throat, can be exacerbated by dehydration. Dehydration alone can cause these symptoms. So stay hydrated! Follow the rule, “If your urine is dark yellow or orange, you’re dehydrated”. Keep alcohol and caffeine intake to a minimum if you can as they can cause excessive sweating which will dehydrate you faster. Since we know that many of you are already laughing at the idea of not drinking, we recommend electrolytes. Electrolytes can support faster hydration and are also a life-saver if you’re prone to brutal hangovers. Stick a few of those in your bag when you’re backing. And then put some more in. They're a festival essential!

Find more tips for what to bring to a festival as well as electrolytes

Protect your throat and prevent cough and that scratchy throat feeling by not smoking and avoiding people who are, wearing a mask or bandana over your nose and mouth to limit dust exposure, and not snogging strangers. If you know you’re going to go against that advice anyway, or if you’re particularly prone to that post-festival cough and/or throat irritation, you can reduce discomfort by securing some throat lozenges to soothe pain, irritation, dryness, and that scratchy feeling.  


Simply shouting to get your mates’ attention, or screaming in excitement when your favourite artist comes on stage, can make you feel ill. Seriously. Just from screaming and shouting, you can give yourself laryngitis, which is when your voice box or vocal cords become irritated or swollen. Take our word for it, it's not a fun time so, if you can, try not to scream and shout your head off to avoid laryngitis.  

As we mentioned, while festival flu, in a way, isn’t a real illness, it’s still possible to pick up a cold from other festivalgoers. So, if you want to feel as best you can post-festival, you’ll want to avoid germs. To do this, don’t go around sharing drinks and vapes/cigarettes with people, for starters. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (if you can) or use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content. And consider that mask or bandana we mentioned earlier to prevent germ spread and protect your throat from dust and allergens. 



All in all, festival flu is very preventable… if you can be sensible. But even if you do get it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the result of us not properly taking care of ourselves while kicking it in a field for a few days. It’s not really all that surprising it happens when you think about it. And feeling a bit achy will always be worth it for the laughs with your mates and seeing your favourite artists on stage. In fact, music festivals can be good for our wellbeing. So, in our eyes, it balances out and then some. 

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Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.







Header: Danny Howe / Unsplash.com

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