It’s officially spring, which can mean only one thing – it’s time to start putting your summer plans together! As festivalgoers begin gearing up for this season’s antics, there’s one essential packing item that rarely makes it in among the booze, tents, and glitter, and that’s bug repellent.
Insects are an integral part of all outdoor fun and, though mostly nothing more than a mild nuisance, large numbers have the potential to take the edge off your flow. Swarms of mosquitoes, hoards of bed bugs, head lice and ticks are just some of the biting beasties you can expect to encounter at festivals, so what can you do to protect yourself?
Bug repellent – why bother?
In the midst of festival magic, insects are probably the last thing on your mind. For the most part, that’s exactly where they should be – you’re very unlikely to encounter any serious problems with the occasional bloodsucker, after all. However, some bites are more dangerous than others and, depending on what part of the world you’re in, have the potential to infect you with some pretty nasty diseases. Mosquitoes and ticks are infamous disease vectors and, even if you don’t get sick, who wants to be dealing with itchy bites?
Fortunately, preventing them is easy with a little forward planning. With just one or two additions to your backpack, you can stay blissed out and bite-free for the whole event.
What are the most common bugs at festivals, and how can you avoid them?
Mosquitoes are public enemy number one at summer outdoor events throughout the world. Our collective hatred of these biting, disease-spreading bugs unites each and every festivalgoer but, unfortunately, they’re an unavoidable part of life outside of Antarctica. Depending on your region, your risk of contracting an illness from mosquito bites will vary. However, no-one wants their sunset ruined by these menaces, so how can you keep them off you?
How to avoid mosquitoes at festivals:
- Use bug spray. It’s the easiest, most effective and inexpensive way to repel mosquitoes and other insects. Products containing insecticides like DEET are considered to be the most effective, but there are alternative, natural formulations that work very well, too.
- Cover up. If they can’t reach your skin, they can’t bite it! If the thought of partying in a draping, PJ-style garment doesn’t do it for you, however, see above – ditch the smock and don some bug spray.
- Sleep somewhere sensible. A night under the open stars has its merits, but a securely fastened tent or net is the only way to guarantee all-night protection from mosquitoes. However, if the universe is calling and you can’t stand to be under canvas, bug spray is (again) the best compromise.
Hearts and minds are opened at festivals, new soul-connections are forged, and a million hugs exchanged. Can you feel the love? How about the itching on your scalp?
Unfortunately, music festivals (and anywhere else where close contact among lots of people is common, e.g. schools) are a great place to pick up head lice. These tiny, bloodsucking bugs leave maddeningly itchy bites, but they are nowhere near as bad as their reputation suggests. Just for the record:
- Head lice cannot jump (you’re thinking of fleas).
- Head lice do not spread diseases.
- Head lice are not the same as pubic lice (though they are still spread by extended close physical contact, e.g. kissing, hugging, sharing beds, etc.).
That being said, they’re a pain in the ass to get rid of and are best avoided, so how can you prevent head lice at festivals?
How to avoid head lice at festivals?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent head lice (other than donning a skullcap and refusing to take it off for the duration of the party). However, you can reduce your risk of picking them up by:
- Avoiding close contact with others (or, at least, those who are visibly scratching).
- Avoiding sharing combs, brushes, and headgear with others.
- Avoiding sharing beds, pillows or clothing with others.
Check your hair with a fine-toothed comb if you start to get itchy (head lice are way easier to get rid of if caught quickly).
Is it the weird, mechanical way they move, the fact that they bury their whole freaking mouth under your skin to drink your blood, or their reputation for spreading Lyme disease that makes ticks so loathsome? Answer: it’s all of them. Ticks are gross, painful to remove and potentially dangerous, so how can you stop them from latching on at music festivals?
How to avoid ticks at festivals:
- Use tick-repelling bug spray. It’s your best chance of keeping your skin tick-free, so use it! As mentioned above, it’s also your best defense against other types of biting insects.
- Check your skin. Ticks tend to wander around until they find a suitable place to latch on, so check your skin regularly – they may end up in unexpected places! In particular, make sure to check your groin, armpits, behind your ears and scalp (ticks love warmth and moisture).
Another parasitic insect spread by close contact is the bed bug, a nocturnal blood-feeder that typically nests in bedding material.
When thousands of people gather from all corners of the country (and beyond), bringing blankets from far and wide, you can be sure that at least a few will have stowaways. If these infested belongings come into contact your own, you may wake up with a rash of bites and the unsettling realization that hundreds of insects feasted on you while you slept (how’s that comedown feeling now?).
Like head lice, bed bugs are pretty harmless, but dealing with an infestation can be a lengthy and disheartening process.
How to avoid bed bugs at festivals:
- Keep your belongings separate from others.
- Avoid sharing beds.
- Check your stuff when you get home. Leave everything by the front door until you’ve made sure it’s not carrying anything passengers. If you want to be 100% sure, wash everything on a high heat before putting it back in your room (you’ll probably want to do this anyway).
How can you protect yourself from insects and other bugs at music festivals?
The best solution is bug spray (either chemical or natural), as this is the only thing that’s almost guaranteed to keep biting insects off your skin. Either that, or cover up – long, loose clothing and bug nets make great physical barriers against creepy crawlies, wherever you are.
So, before you immerse yourself in some summer madness and while your logical brain is still in full working order, stock up on insect repellent!