Everything That Happens to Your Body at a Music Festival

As far as your organs are concerned, musical festivals are basically torture chambers with entertainment.

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Attending a music festival is like running a three-day marathon, except rather than drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep, you sprint the entire time, fueled by overpriced beer, pounding subwoofers and, well, “other stuff.” You leave feeling bruised, battered and with your pooping schedule hopelessly out-of-whack.

So what actually happens inside your body at a music festival that requires weeks (if not months) of recovery?

Nothing good, apparently.

Your Organs Become Emaciated
Sunburns aside, frolicking for several hours under the sun can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (even without adding alcohol into the mix). Losing electrolytes—especially sodium and potassium—can lead to serious health problems: A potassium deficiency can cause the heart to stop beating.

Now, that’s an admittedly extreme example, but once you throw in stimulants—which can encourage people to skip eating and drinking—the imbalance will almost certainly worsen. On top of that, stimulants have a tendency to increase your body temperature, which can result in a condition called hyperthermia (aka, a dangerously overheated body).

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, this combination of electrolyte imbalance and hyperthermia can put a ton of pressure on your organs—including the brain, which can begin to swell. In fact, when people die at music festivals, they often die due to multiple organ failure. So drink plenty of fluids, and don’t forget to eat—yes, even though that means spending $30 on a bottle of water and a microwaved corn dog.

Your Mind Goes Berserk
Stimulants and all-night, tent-based orgies (even if you’re just trying to sleep nearby) will almost certainly lead to sleep deprivation. While temporarily going without sleep can cripple your immune system, the more immediate (and unfortunate) effects of sleep deprivation are on the mind. A 2015 study found that a single night of sleeplessness can result in extreme emotional fluctuations, similar to borderline personality disorder.

In more intense cases, sleep deprivation can lead to delirium—confused thinking and reduced awareness of your environment—and even hallucinations. Both of which are indications that the brain isn’t interpreting information clearly. So if you see a bunch of dancing unicorn-men and you haven’t taken any psychedelics recently—well, sorry to say, they’re probably actually there. But if you do think you’re hallucinating, go take an afternoon nap.

Your Ears Quit Working
“During the past two decades, the frequency of hearing loss among young people has increased and going to music concerts, clubs and festivals may part of the reason,” Dutch researchers wrote in a recent press release.

In a new study, the same researchers compared the post-concert hearing of 51 people attending an outdoor music festival, 25 of whom wore earplugs. Surprise! The researchers reported much more short-term hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) among those without earplugs. Since nobody wears ear plugs at a festival, you can assume that all our ears are getting screwed.

Weirdly, drinking and drug use appears to up that risk: The more inebriate the studied concertgoers became, the more likely they were to stand closer to high-decibel speakers. Making matters even worse, a study conducted in 1978 also reported that “blood alcohol levels between 0.09 percent and 0.15 percent were found to reduce the protective action of the acoustic reflex in five human subjects with normal hearing.” Translation: Being drunk makes it even easier to damage your ears. Sigh.

Your Muscles Wilt
In addition to causing dehydration, a 2014 study found that a single alcohol binge “can cause bacteria to leak from the gut and increase levels of bacterial toxins in the blood.” More specifically, endotoxins—which are released from the cell wall of certain bacteria when the cell is destroyed (in this case, by way of alcohol consumption)—can cause muscle aches and force your body to retrieve essential nutrients from muscles. The end result is achiness and soreness, both of which might contribute to your weeklong post-festival hangover.

Your Lungs (and Throat) Weaken
Smoking a lot because, hey, you’re outdoors? While smoking cigarettes can have disastrous long-term effects, the immediate aftermath of a three-day tobacco binge may be equally frightening. A 2009 study found that smoking immediately damages the lung tissues that are meant to remove toxins, and reduces your overall lung capacity—you won’t be able to send enough oxygen to your muscles, which can hinder your ability to exercise in the weeks after attending a music festival.

Your pack-a-day weekend may also result in serious bouts of acid reflux (i.e., when stomach acid rises up into the throat, causing burning chest pain). That’s because smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that prevents stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus. Worse yet, this acid can break down the protective lining in your stomach, which may result in peptic ulcers (open sores in the stomach).

All of which means your throat, chest and stomach won’t be feeling too hot after smoking your way through a music festival.

Your Butt Blows Up
Porta-potties overflowing with rancid crap tend to make most of us try and hold on till we reach the safety of our home toilets. This, inevitably, can result in an extremely painful experience: “The longer you hold your poop, the harder it’s going to get,” Niket Sonpal, an assistant clinical professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, previously told us. “The pressure builds until the point where you can’t hold your stomach flat no matter how hard you try. As the stool gets harder in your colon, you increase your risk for what’s likely going to be an uncomfortable trip to the bathroom.”

But hey, at least it’s better than this:

On the Plus Side, You Burn Tons of Calories
French consumer electronics company Withings recently conducted a study on the physical activity of festival-goers by attaching motion-sensing wristbands to attendees. After recording participants at a few festivals, Withings found that the average patron burns a whopping 9,000 calories during a three-day festival, with an average of 300 to 400 calories per set.

That’s more or less the equivalent of running a marathon—see, that intro paragraph wasn’t such BS after all, huh?