Festivals and Food Allergy
Australia is home to some amazing music festivals.
Going anywhere with large crowds, cheap food stalls, and strict rules about what can and cannot be brought in can be stressful when you have a food allergy. But, like all activities, it doesn’t have to be. Preparation and research is key.
Below are some helpful tips and ideas to help you plan your festival experience.
- Make sure to carry your ASCIA Action Plan signed by your doctor. Some people choose to also carry other medical certification from their doctor.
- Keep your EpiPen® or Anapen® in its original packaging with the dispensary label from the pharmacy. If you take your EpiPen® or Anapen® out of the box make sure the dispensary label is on the plastic tube the EpiPen® or Anapen® sits in. Most events will require that the name on the label must match the ID of the ticket holder.
- Communicate you have an EpiPen® or Anapen® for your allergy as you are going through security. This could prevent staff suddenly thinking they have found something not permitted. Entry gate medical staff may need to review your medication.
- Contact festival organisers prior to the event, and enquire if you can bring in your own food. Explain that you have a severe food allergy and need to have your own food. Should the festival organisers allow you to bring in food, they should then explain what you can and cannot bring in.
Getting your medication into the festival
Arguably one of the most nerve-racking parts of attending a festival is the bag-check upon entry. It always feels like a ‘will they take away my EpiPen® or Anapen®’ kind of situation. Security is tight, and there are strict rules and regulations in place regarding prescription medications at festivals. While these rules exist as safety measures, it is important to remember that you have every right to have your emergency prescription medication with you and take it into the venue.
Each festival may have different requirements as to how prescription medication must be carried at festivals, however the basic rules are as follows:
- Medication must be in its original packaging with the dispensary label.
- The name on the dispensary label must match the ID of the ticket holder.
- The ticket holder must have medical certification (ASCIA Action Plan) completed and signed by their medical professional, confirming the requirement of the medication.
- The ticket holder must identify themselves to medical staff upon entry, for medication review.
If you stay calm, follow these rules and instructions of event staff, you should be fine.
Another thing to take into consideration is how you plan to carry your EpiPen® or Anapen® throughout the duration of the festival. Often you’ll find there are restrictions placed on the size of bags allowed into the festival venue.
Small, lightweight bum-bags are a great option to help keep your EpiPen® or Anapen® on you at all times. Not only are bum-bags back in fashion, carrying your medication around your waist means that your hands are free to party! Let your friends know where your emergency medication and ASCIA Action Plan are, so that they can access it in an emergency.
Food and festivals
It can be difficult to find safe food to eat at a music festival. Most options are food truck or other fast-food vendors. Not to mention the risk of cross-contamination may be greater as there are large crowds, long queues and small cooking areas.
It is important to remember that you may not be allowed to bring in your own food. This is something you can check Make enquiries about bringing your own food to the festival prior to attending the event. Contact the event management team and mention you have a severe food allergy and need to bring your own food into the venue. Have a discussion and see what they say. It might be a good idea to print out your email correspondence and bring along to the festival. Use this to show security at the festival gates should you encounter any issues.
In the event that you are unable to bring in food, research which food vendors will be at the festival. Most festivals will release a list of food stalls prior to the event so you can check out what will be available. Remember, by law all food vendors must be able to provide you with information about food allergen content – so when you order food, don’t forget to declare your food allergy and ASK about food content!
It may also be a good idea to stick to plain and simple foods. You know the foods that are generally OK for you.
If you’re planning on consuming alcohol at a festival, remember that being under the influence of alcohol could lead you to make a risky food or drink choice. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can also be mistaken for drunkenness’ (i.e., vomiting, confusion, dizziness or collapse) so it’s a good idea to pace yourself, keep hydrated and stay with a friend!
Camping and Accommodation
Some festivals are multi-day extravaganzas. A lot of the time, people will camp on-site or in nearby off-site camping areas. If you’re attending a multi-day festival there are a few things you should consider and research about camp facilities. Perhaps staying at a nearby apartment building would be a better option for you.
- Find out what the cooking facilities are like. It is unlikely you will be able to take your own BBQ or gas stove so you would probably have to cook and store food in a shared camp kitchen.
- Research accommodation in the town where the festival is being held. Event organisers arrange transport to and from the festival grounds. Staying in an apartment in town with your own private kitchen is a better option than having to use a shared BBQ. Washing up is also an issue as you may not have access to warm soapy water if using shared utensils.
Other things to consider
Some other things you need to consider when preparing for a music festival include:
Wearing a medical identification bracelet. While you may not normally wear one, it is a good idea to wear something to identify your allergy at an event like a music festival. There are large crowds and vast areas of parkland. It’s very easy to get lost or separated from your group. If you happen to be away from your friends and experience anaphylaxis, your bracelet can help.
Keep your phone CHARGED. That sounds like a silly thing to say in this day and age. But it’s important you have access to your phone for the duration of the festival, just in case you are separated from your group and find yourself in an emergency situation.
Once you arrive at the camp ground, familiarize yourself with it. Where is the first aid tent located? Point it out to people in your group so they know where to run for help if required.
Finally, have a great time. Music festivals are a fantastic experience, and there is no reason you should miss out!