Hot Tunes, Cool Heads

Summer Heat and Sick Beats: A Cautionary Tale

As the sun climbs high and the beats drop, music festival season ignites a sense of wanderlust and eagerness for unforgettable experiences. However, in the midst of the excitement and amidst the sweltering crowds, it’s easy to underestimate a silent adversary: the heat. Back in the summer of ‘19, an energizing day almost turned to disaster. I had been partying with friends the day prior, and continued the act the next day as we walked to the front gates of the festival. I hadn’t drank any water that morning, and had little food in my stomach to fuel the long day ahead. I notice that I’m not feeling 100%, but thought I’d feel better once I got inside the festival. Looking back now, that was a fatal mistake I will always carry with me. The line to enter the festival looked about a half mile or 800 meters long. While waiting in the seemingly endless queue to enter the festival, I slowly began to feel sluggish. Inching closer to security, I kept asking the people around me for water, but everyone would say their bottles were empty. Finally reaching the checkpoint, I felt my vision blur and my legs wobble—the next thing I knew, paramedics were fanning me back to consciousness. I had passed out from dehydration and heat exhaustion.

I spent the next hour in the medical tent, with my friends sitting next to me concerned. A feeling of guilt washed over me because this occurrence forced us all to miss an artist we were excited to see. I was told to drink two bottles of water and get food from a vendor immediately before I was allowed to go back out into the venue. It was an eye-opening moment that many festival goers, apart from myself, also unfortunately experience. Let me walk you through the underside of such summer extravaganzas, common oversights, and most importantly, the strategies to ensure your festival story doesn’t take a similar turn.

Heat – The Unseen Festival Headliner

In the festive labyrinth of lights and sound, overheating and heat stroke are more common than you might think. According to Northwestern Medicine, extreme heat at music festivals contribute to hundreds of deaths every year in the United States (NM, 2023). Most people don’t realize how quickly the body can go from “I’m totally fine” to “I need medical assistance” when dancing under the sun. When dehydration sets in, heat stroke is not far behind, and that’s when things get dangerous.

Your body sends clear signals: dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, headache, and excessive sweating are some of the warning signs. Sadly, these can be misinterpreted as just side effects of the festival ‘experience.’ But make no mistake, ignoring these symptoms can have grim consequences.

Beat the Heat with Smarts and Prep

It is important to take caution during the hot summer months when planning for your outdoor festivities. The call of the dance floor is strong, but consider these life-saving tips your backstage pass to a better experience.

  1. Hydrate Like a Headliner

It’s no secret that water is the elixir of life, and more so at a searing hot music festival. Before setting out, hydrate fully, and once you arrive, frequent the free water stations – they’re your lifeline. Carrying a refillable water bottle ensures your escapades are not cut short by dehydration. Here are a few festival-approved hydration packs and reusable bottles.

(Lunchbox Packs, 2024), (Owala, 2024), (Takeya, 2024), (HydroFlask, 2024), (RaveWonderland, 2024).

I love the Lunchbox brand because they make quality backpacks offering functionality as well as awesome cover designs to complete your festival look. My top three reusable water bottles are from brands Owala, Takeya, and Hydroflask. Owala is great because the handle latches down over the spout for extra sealing. You can unlatch it and clip it to your backpack, and refill it as needed. Takeya and Hydro Flask also have handles you can clip to your backpack or belongings, but additionally, Takeya has a soft bottom that is scratch resistant and includes a mouth spout like Owala. Both Takeya and Hydro Flask bottles are screw tops and in my opinion, are great options to keep insulated beverages without leakage. All three brands make many different colors for you to choose from. Lastly, for my girls who love cool designs, Rave Wonderland offers so many cute hydropack designs that would go perfect with your festival outfit lineup. 

  1. The Sanctuary of Shade

Take breaks. Most festival venues are strategically placed in rural areas such as forests to give ravers access to shade. Use this to your advantage, set up a hammock and relax between sets. Powering through set after set can be tempting, but your body needs respite. If there are no trees, seek out other shaded areas or tents for a timeout. It’s an excellent chance to sit back, rehydrate, connect with friends, charge up, and observe the festival tapestry.

  1. Cool Tech for Hot Moments

A small battery-powered fan can be a game-changer, offering a breath of fresh air amidst the heat. Don’t underestimate the relief it can bring, turning your spot in the crowd into a personal oasis.

  1. Look Out for Your Festival Family

Festivals are all about community. Keep an eye on your friends and fellow attendees. Check-in regularly, encourage hydration, and be ready to act if someone’s exhibiting heat stress. Remember, swift action can be lifesaving.

Lounge in Lucidity

As we sway to the rhythm of music and togetherness, let’s be mindful of our health. With a bit of preparation and preventative care, we can ensure our festival stories are punctuated with joy rather than cautionary tales.

Next time the festival fever hits and you’re packing your love for beats, pack an awareness for the heat as well. Implementing these simple but vital strategies will allow you to revel in the festival spirit without the looming threat of the heat wearing you down.

Go ahead, throw your hands up to your favorite song, lose yourself to the vibrancy, but stay hydrated, stay cool, and stay safe. Because the true magic of music festivals lies not just in the moments made but in the memories remembered—vividly and joyously, rather than from the haze of heat exhaustion.

Stay cool, festival goers, and let’s make every beat count responsibly! <¶< >d

– Sarah Cooper ; IG: @Sarah.cooper


Northwestern Medicine. (2023, August). Outdoor Festival Health and Safety.

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