Festival season is here!!
I have been reading around conditions most commonly found at festivals, how they occur, and which lovely medical team will be looking after them. I came across a great article by Amber Kibby & Bob Longworth on the College of Podiatry website. I have extracted some of the more exciting points so you can be festival ready or at least know where to go when it happens. Although there is no Glastonbury this year, boo, there are always many others to keep you happy.
What can happen to festival feet?
Blisters – Blisters are the most common foot complaint seen. The main cause of blisters is the wrong choice of footwear, when long hours of walking and standing on rough ground takes their toll. You can walk over 10 miles a day at a festival and not realise it.
Our main dilemma with them though is ‘to pop or not’. The pain from blisters often resolves if the fluid is drained, and while this can speed up healing, it also introduces a risk of infection – particularly in the often dirty conditions of a festival. If a blister is already infected though, we have to drain it.
Strapping blisters with rigid tape under tension and then adding a redistributive padding over the top is often the most comfortable choice.
Ankle sprains – Ankle sprains are also something that is seen a lot. Most commonly these are rolling in or out on the ankle, often caused by slipping in mud or on hard lumpy fields.
The main aim of treating ankle sprains ‘in the field’ is for protection. Strapping the ankle and the provision of crutches allows the people to stay on site if they wish but the long-term possible ramifications – which can be pretty serious and can even extend to life-long disability – are explained if they decide to do this.
Puncture wounds – Puncture wounds are frequently seen when festival-goers go barefoot or wear flimsy footwear.
Festivals are strict about not allowing glass on site, but there are other dangers from tent pegs, wood splinters or abandoned drink cans, which can result in some nasty injuries that need to be cleaned and dressed to help prevent infection.
One incident reported from last year was a fire-walker who was seen with an infected lesion from a puncture wound that had been caused by a hot shard of coal penetrating their heel…
‘Welly leg’ – This name is taken directly from Abby and Bobs article. It appears to be a unique yet common challenge at festivals. Lots of people wear wellies at festivals, even if it is dry. Wellies are made of rubber which can irritate the skin if your socks are shorter than the boots, and this can get infected, resulting in more severe welly leg.
Trench foot – It is really called immersion foot and is much more prevalent at wet, muddy festivals. The feet look like they have been in the bath too long, but it can worsen into deep, painful fissures under the foot that are prone to infection and subsequent cellulitis and numbness. Getting the feet dry rested and exposed to the air are essential to halt its progress.
Post festival ‘numb foot’ – is a milder version of it, due to feet getting damp in an airless environment, which often takes several months for full feeling to return.
Here are the top 10 tips provided by Abby and Bob who have been involved in podiatry and festivals since 1997.
Top 10 Tips for festival-goers’ feet
- Remember you’ll be in a farmer’s field or pubic space for a few days and have appropriate footwear for the conditions. Generally, this would mean good quality hiking boots or well-fitting Wellington boots with plenty of clean, dry long socks. On the dry years a good quality pair of trainers might suffice.
- If you have a history of previous ankle sprains or if it is slippery under foot, wear hiking boots that protect the ankle.
- Get used to wearing your footwear before attending the festival. Wearing new shoes and wellies for the first time during a festival can cause escalating problems.
- If wearing wellies and shorts, make sure you have socks longer than the wellies.
- Air your feet overnight by taking off your footwear and change into dry socks frequently.
- Avoid walking on muddy sloping banks.
- Limit the amount you carry – injuries frequently occur on the way into the festival when festival goers are laden with heavy rucksacks and tents.
- Don’t walk around the site barefoot (resist your inner hippy).
- Don’t ignore blisters – they can alter the way you walk and lead to more serious problems.
- Likewise, don’t ignore infections. The medical teams are there to help you.