Toddler guide for festivals

Child health and safety advice for families heading to family-friendly festivals

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  • Taking your toddler to a festival

    Having young children doesn’t mean you can’t all head to a festival. You might need to plan and pack more than you did before becoming a mum or dad, but it can still be fun. Many festivals are set up for small children with play areas and entertainment to keep little people amused.

    In this family festival guide, we explain:

    • Food preparation and safety
    • Coping with heat, cold and damp
    • Bugs, insects and bites
    • Cuts and grazes
    • Hygiene
    • What to do if you lose your toddler
    • Do you need ear plugs or ear muffs?
    • The first aid you should pack
  • Food preparation and safety

    Bringing your own food cuts down on costs and means you know exactly what your toddlers are eating. Fruit, cartons of juice, cereal bars, rice cakes and packets of raisins make good snacks and are all recommended by experienced festival mums.

    If you’re cooking yourself, bring a small camping stove and focus on non-perishable foods, such as tins of baked beans, tins of rice pudding and packets of custard.

    To avoid tummy upsets you may want to avoid meat. But going veggie doesn’t mean you won’t encounter nasties – bacteria thrive in milk and milk products, eggs and cooked cereals like rice. Watching the food being cooked in front of you is one way to ensure it is fresh.

    Make sure your toddler washes their hands before eating and don’t let them eat anything that has fallen on the floor. If you don’t have access to water use a hand gel or wipes but be aware that, according to the Health Protection Agency, not all gels and wipes remove the bacteria E. coli, which is found in dirt. There is no substitute for soap and water!

  • Coping with heat, cold and damp

    Children overheat very easily so make sure they are protected from the sun by insisting they wear a hat and sunscreen (SPF 50). Keep an eye on their fluid intake to make sure they don’t dehydrate – if it’s hot, encourage them to drink some water every hour. Clive James, from St John Ambulance, suggests giving them ice-lollies. “It’s an easy way to keep little ones hydrated,” he says.

    Cloud only blocks some of the sun's rays and, depending on the type and thickness of the cloud, it could stop as little as a third of the UV. You can easily burn worse on a cloudy day because you may not realise the danger.

    James says, “Sunstroke can be very dangerous for small children and needs to be treated straight away, so it’s really best to avoid direct sunlight and encourage your little ones to chill out in the shade between 12pm and 2pm, when the sun is at its highest”.

    Layers are the key to keeping warm at night, particularly in a tent. Blankets, thermal leggings, socks and vests can all be added or pealed off if your child feels uncomfortable. Cold rises from the ground during the night, so make sure your toddler sleeps off the ground on an airbed or mattress on top of a camping mat.

  • Bugs, insects and bites

    Whilst painful and sore, insect bites aren’t usually too much of a problem for toddler. If they are stung or bitten and seem uncomfortable, a dose of Calpol or Neurofen should reduce the pain. However, if the bite or sting gets infected you do need to seek advice from a doctor. Antihistamine creams are available for children over 2 years of age but adult creams are not suitable – always check the label.

    Some children can have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting (anaphylaxis). If you notice swelling around the face or they start vomiting, or have diarrhoea, you need medical attention immediately.

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  • Cuts and grazes

    Muddy fields and farm sites are great fun but they can harbour bacteria, especially if they have been used to graze animals. Keep cuts and grazes clean and covered – you might need to redress them each evening – to avoid the risk of infection.

    Before you go, it’s worth making sure that your toddler’s tetanus injections are up to date.

  • Hygiene

    Grubbing around on the grass is part of being a toddler but be aware that festival sites are often in farmer’s fields, where animal droppings and therefore bacteria are rife.

    If you’re potty training, take a travel potty or portable potty that can be thrown away at the end of the festival. Make up a small bottle of cleaning spray to carry around with you, too. If that seems like too much stress, you may also think about using pull-ups for the weekend.

    “Portaloos should be fine to use with small children if they are cleaned and maintained on a regular basis, says Clive James, from St John Ambulance. He recommends wiping the seat with an antibacterial wipe before you sit your child down.

    Rather than try and bath them, or take your toddler to the showers, take a bucket or a baby bath, strip them down and douse them in (warm) water – it will be great fun and will remove at least a little of the grime!

  • What should you do if you lose your toddler?

    Losing your toddler is every parent’s nightmare but most family-friendly festivals have systems in place to minimise the risk of this happening. It’s worth talking and walking through with your child what they should do if you do lose each other (even if you’re not sure they will understand) and you could write your mobile number on their arm in marker pen – don’t write their name though.

  • Ear plugs or ear muffs?

    Loud noises can be potentially damaging to children’s ear with the effects showing later in life. According to the RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People), a study from the Sahlgrenska university hospital in Gothenburg shows that 50% of all children between 9 and 16 have experienced tinnitus, buzzing or ringing in their ears at some time, so it’s likely that younger children may be affected, too.

    Ear muffs, like Peltor Kids recommended by The Royal National Institute for Deaf People, are essential if you want to protect your child’s ears from the potential damaging effects of loud noise. Ear plugs are an alternative but you might have a job getting them in!

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  • What kind of first aid should you pack?

    Don’t rely on the first aid tents to provide you with everyday first aid supplies. A general purpose first aid kit for a toddler is essential and should include:

    • Plasters
    • Antiseptic cream and wipes or spray
    • Paracetamol or ibuprofen (plus a spoon)
    • Blister plasters
    • A small pair of scissors
    • Calamine
    • Antihistamine lotion (for toddlers over 2)

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