If you are headed to Lollapalooza, have a great time — but beware of potential dangers. That’s the advice of physicians at the Cook County Health. The Emergency Department at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital is prepared for an influx of additional patients during the music festival taking place in Grant Park July 28-31.
“We typically see an extra 20 or so patients a day during the festival, mostly due to alcohol intoxication, but also other drugs and some minor trauma– and that’s just at one hospital” said Dr. Robert Feldman, a Cook County Health Emergency Medicine attending physician. “Fortunately, most of the patients are treated in the ER and released, but we have had some very serious cases where patients need to be in the intensive care unit.”
Dr. Feldman says the mixture of too much alcohol, hot weather and the physical stress of dancing in large crowds can lead to dehydration and high body temperatures, which can be very dangerous. His advice – don’t overdo it. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion which include muscle cramps, nausea, and feeling cold and clammy while still sweating.
While excessive alcohol is the most pervasive danger at large summer concerts, the trend of exploratory drug use at summer concerts continues to be troubling according Dr. Steven Aks, emergency medicine attending physician and medical toxicologist at Stroger Hospital.
“We’re seeing more synthetic pot. With their colorful labels sometimes featuring cartoon characters, concert-goers may be fooled into thinking these drugs are safe, but you can really get burned,” said Dr. Aks. “You have no idea what you are getting. Synthetic marijuana may be way more potent, up to 100 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.”
Synthetic pot, unlike marijuana, can cause a wide variety of severe symptoms, including agitation, hallucinations, cardiac problems, kidney damage, brain damage, and even death. A report issued this month by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of a dramatic increase in synthetic cannabinoid poisonings in 2015; and suspected K2 overdoses recently sent dozens of people to hospitals in New York.
“Enjoy the music, but avoid the substances,” said Dr. Aks.
Similar to last year, a medical tent with physicians and nurses will be set up at Grant Park to treat minor medical cases. Dr. Feldman advises participants to take a moment when they arrive to the festival to familiarize themselves with where the medical tent is, just in case.
“If you are feeling sick, listen to your body. If you become overheated, confused or lightheaded, get to a medical station and get it taken care of before it become more serious,” said Dr. Feldman.
Kim Waterman, Communications Manager