What Is 'Coachella Cough' - And How Can You Avoid Getting Sick At Festivals?

Festival season is upon us once again. This weekend kicks off the season with Coachella, an annual music festival located in Indio, California. Music lovers, celebrities, and influencers gather to hear their favorite musicians and show off some of the coolest street-style you will see all year.


Unfortunately, along with festival season comes the much dreaded 'festival flu' — aka 'Coachella cough.' While this is not a medical term, it is often used to describe the mixture of illnesses that are developed during and post music festivals. Coachella and other music festivals are often located in remote locations where there is plenty of dust and pollen to go around. Not to mention, large crowds are never great for the immune system. Combine these factors with heavy partying and you have a recipe for illness. 

If you are heading to Coachella (or any other music festival) this summer, we have your back. We have put together a guide to what defines 'Coachella cough' — along with four hacks to avoid developing an illness while attending music festivals.


What exactly is 'Coachella cough'?

According to Respiratory Therapy Zone, "Coachella cough is a condition brought on by exposure to large crowds and dusty conditions. It's similar to a regular cold or the flu but is directly related to being close to large groups, such as at a concert or festival." Many people begin experiencing symptoms post-festival, though some develop aspects after only a day or two. Symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common seems to be coughing, sneezing, sore throat, watery eyes, fever, and body aches. The condition can last anywhere from three days up to two weeks. 


The conditions of a music festival environment are the perfect blend to leave your body susceptible to illness. Being up later than normal, heavy drinking, traveling to attend the event, and being in a new environment surrounded by new people from across the globe leaves your defenses down — and gives illness the perfect time to attack.

Stay hydrated

Hydration is key to any event that will keep you outdoors for hours on end, and this is especially true at a music festival. Most people who are attending a summer music festival such as Coachella will not only be sweating because of the intense heat, but due to packed crowds, screaming, and dancing. It can be annoying to carry a water bottle around constantly, but it is worth it. You would hate to become so severely dehydrated that you get sick and are forced to miss your favorite artist's performance.


Excessive drinking is another dehydrating factor that's common at music festivals. Alcohol is a known diuretic, and causes frequent urination — inconvenient at the best of times, but outright dangerous in hot weather. Combine this with the dancing, yelling, and all the other factors that make a music festival, and you have the perfect combination for severe dehydration. In order to rehydrate yourself at that point, you will most likely need something more than water. It is recommended to consume minimal alcohol (or consume it slowly) while at a festival and then rehydrate with electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade.

Avoid smoke and wear a mask

Smoke at music festivals is inevitable. Whether it be from a fire or people lighting up recreationally, it is almost impossible to avoid. Doctors do say, though, that it is best to avoid smoke as much as possible, even if this means simply removing yourself from the situation and standing away from the smoke. Smoke can irritate the throat and cause a frustrating cough, leaving you feeling sick. And it adds fuel to the already lung-irritating dust that is unavoidable at music festivals that take place in the desert, such as Coachella.


While some may choose to wear a mask in the crowd for other reasons this year, face coverings are recommended by the Coachella festival organizers in order to protect against the dust. "One of the most important things, period, is wearing a mask. A surgical mask or a N95 or KN95 will be better than cloth masks," Dr. Ranjeet Minocha, a board-certified allergist with the Eisenhower Allergy and Immunology Clinic tells Desert Sun. This is due to both the spread of viruses and to avoid dust in the air.

Take allergy medicine

The amount of dust and pollen in the air at large outdoor events can be the worst nightmare for those with allergies — and even those without. People with a history of allergies, asthma, or other lung-related problems should be taking allergy medicine before they arrive. It is also important to remember to bring them with you, along with your inhaler if you carry one. You may find that you need to take more throughout the day. This will get their body prepared for treating the imminent symptoms that will arrive. 


Lung conditions can cause life-threatening situations, especially at chaotic music festivals. With so many factors for complications prominent and many people present, it is easy for your situation to go unnoticed until it turns severe. Though it may be hard to make the decision, it is often best to opt out of going to a festival if you are already experiencing allergy or asthma symptoms beforehand.

Sanitize frequently

It may sound like the most obvious, but washing and sanitizing your hands frequently is essential when at any music festival. Music festivals like Coachella often only have portable toilets — as well as portable sinks — that often are not in the best shape. Since there's no guarantee that the sinks will even be working or will be accessible at all times, it is best to carry around hand sanitizer. 


Use it before eating or touching your face (because re-applying your makeup is inevitable at festivals). Extra cautiousness is key this year, so we recommend carrying sanitizing wipes as well if possible. This way you can wipe down a table before you sit or anything you may be touching. While festival cough is not always due to infection and may be caused by other factors, there are plenty of viruses that spread around music festivals that are. No one wants to miss their favorite performer because of sickness — or bring home a contagious souvenir.