Living Well

6 Ways to Stay Healthy during Festival Season

It's Spring in New Orleans, and you know what that means: Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!

Here are 6 ways to keep you healthy and hydrated so you stay moving and grooving all day or all weekend long.

1. Drink Water

The human body is comprised largely of water. If you lose more fluids than you take in, you can become dehydrated. This means there are not enough fluids in your body for it to function right. Mild dehydration can cause weakness, confusion, or muscle cramps.

Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water. Many festivals provide refillable water stations but remember to empty your bottle before going through security.

If you're drinking alcohol, alternate every other drink with water.

2. Wear Sunscreen

The best way to protect yourself against the damaging effects of the sun is to limit exposure and protect your skin.

Sunscreen protects from sunburn by absorbing or reflecting UV rays. Selecting a good sunscreen is important in protecting the skin. Choose a sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum protection. This protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

  • An SPF of 30 or higher

  • Water resistance or is waterproof. This means the sunscreen provides protection while swimming or sweating for a certain amount of time—either 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the label.

For children over 6 months, follow these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all exposed skin. Re-apply about every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, whenever possible. Look for clothing with a UV protection factor (UPF) or made of a tightly woven fabric.

  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.

The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again. Sunscreens allow you to be outdoors for a longer time before your skin starts to redden. But they don't give you total protection. Using sunscreen doesn't mean you can stay out in the sun for an unlimited amount of time. Damage to your skin cells is still occurring.

3. Cover Up

Using sunscreen when you are going out in the sun is important. But it is only one part of an overall plan of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Other important ways to protect your skin include:

  • Seeking shade when appropriate. Limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and p.m., when UV rays are the strongest.

  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim and tightly woven clothing that covers most of your skin, as well as sunglasses.

4. Double-check Medications

Many over-the-counter and prescription medicines increase the skin's sensitivity to UV rays. So it’s possible to develop a severe sunburn in just minutes when taking certain medicines. Read medicine labels carefully and use extra sunscreen as needed.

5. Eat Sensibly

Festivals are often filled with delicious, and not so nutritious, food options. Eat a large breakfast with plenty of protein to help keep you filled and energized throughout the day.

Look for lighter menu options from food vendors which will help you maintain energy to keep you moving and grooving throughout the long day. If something is crispy, it's codeword for stayaway. It's probably fried and probably contains a lot of fat and calories. Anything that has big sauces on it like a cream or hollandaise sauce, those types of things are probably going to have a fair amount of calories in them. Look for choices like grilled or boiled chicken or seafood and items like sandwiches, yogurt and fresh fruit.

For festivals that do allow outside food, packing healthy snacks can keep you from splurging on foods that are high in calories and fat.

Some good snack options include:

  • Pre-washed fruit (apples, pears, bananas, or grapes)

  • Whole-grain crackers or pretzels

  • Whole-grain bagels

  • Plain popcorn

  • Fig bars

  • Baby carrots or ready-cut raw veggies

  • Dried fruit

  • Unsalted, raw nuts or seeds

  • Homemade trail mix

6. Pace Yourself

Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Alcohol impairs sensory perceptions, judgment and reaction time which increases your risk for injury or accidents.

If you choose to drink, there are responsible ways to drink alcohol:

  • Set a safe limit for yourself before you start drinking.

  • Choose a designated driver — either someone who doesn’t drink alcohol or someone you can trust to stay sober.

  • Give your car keys to someone who won't be drinking. Give him or her permission to keep the keys if you seem incapable of driving.

  • Make arrangements in advance for a safe way to get home. A taxi is worth the money to prevent a serious problem.

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Eat something before you start or along with drinking alcohol. This will slow the rate at which alcohol is taken into your body.

  • Don't drink when tired or taking medicines.

Now get out there, and enjoy all the many festivals our great city -- and state -- have to offer!