July 26, 2018

The Lollapalooza Music Festival at Grant Park is right around the corner.  An impressive lineup of musical acts during the festival is a definite.  But a trip to the emergency room for excessive drug and alcohol intake doesn’t have to be.

Last year, more than 230 people were taken to Chicago hospitals from Lollapalooza, which is Chicago’s largest music festival and spans four days.  Yet Dr. Jenny Lu, an emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist at Cook County Health (CCH), said there are several precautions concert-goers can take to stay safe.

“The mixture of too much alcohol, hot weather and dancing in large crowds can lead to dehydration and high body temperatures, which can be very dangerous,” she noted.  “So my advice would be to try not to overdo it and look out for signs of heat exhaustion, such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps or feeling weak.”

In addition to avoiding drinking too much alcohol, people should also stay away from drugs like synthetic marijuana, Dr. Lu said.  Synthetic marijuana, or “fake weed,” is marketed as being similar to cannabis, but it actually can be a lot more potent than THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, she stated.

“These synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals sprayed on organic material, and they can cause a lot of unwanted effects such as rapid heart rate or psychosis,” Dr. Lu said.  “Individuals in Illinois have also reported severe bleeding after using synthetic cannabinoids due to rat poison being found in some samples.”

Anyone experiencing severe or unexplained bleeding after taking the drug should call 911 or be taken to the nearest hospital immediately.

“Bath salts,” “ecstasy” and other synthetic drugs can be just as dangerous.

“There’s no way you can know what you’re actually getting when you buy drugs, so you’re better off avoiding them all together,” Dr. Lu said.

Staying hydrated is also very important.  Try to get at least 7 to 8 cups of liquid and drink more if temperatures are high that day, Dr. Lu said.

Before you head to a concert at Lollapalooza, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for the medical tents and the cooling centers located at the festival, too.

“If you are feeling sick, listen to your body,” Dr. Lu said.  “Feeling overheated, confused or lightheaded?  Get to a medical station and get it taken care of before it become more serious and ends the fun for you and your friends and family.”

Lastly, concert-goers should remember to put sunscreen on their skin, even if it’s a cloudy day.  You should also wear protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and seek shade whenever possible, particularly during the midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

This year’s Lollapalooza will run from Aug. 2 to 5.