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Coachella festival-goers suffering from 'festival flu' | The symptoms and how to prevent it

Symptoms are similar to a cold or flu and are mostly due to dry and dusty desert conditions.

COACHELLA, Calif. — Thousands of San Diegans will head to the desert for the second weekend of Coachella Music and Arts Festival, but many will be bringing back a sickness known as "festival flu."    

It’s called the 'festival flu' because you can develop common cold and flu-like symptoms.

“It was hard to breathe because of the heat and the dust for sure,” said festival-goer, Federica Nanetti.

Nanetti couldn’t miss out on one of the biggest music festivals in the world.

“It was very exciting it was the first time for me and we had so much fun,” she added.

However, after spending three days in the desert she began experiencing cold-like symptoms.

"The first day during the festival I was feeling fine, I just started feeling like having a cough. The next morning we all woke up with a cough that stayed with us all day until after the festival on Sunday," she continued.

According to experts, she’s not alone. The post-festival illness affects a large percentage of people who go.

Dr. Abisola Olulade at Sharp Reese-Stealy, says one of the primary reasons is the festival's location.

"We see a lot of particulate matter from the dust and of course, that is linked to climate change, because you have the drying out of the Salton Sea." said Dr. Olulade.

The nearby Salton Sea, which is California’s largest lake, is one of the main contributors to air quality in the region.

The lake has been shrinking in size over the past decades, leaving behind a host of problems. As it drys out, it forms a layer of sediment and dust. Particles can travel for long distances and are inhaled by those who live nearby.

"When you're at Coachella, you're getting all of this in your sinuses, you're getting it in your lungs, and it's really these flying particles that are smaller than a strand of hair. and that can cause a lot of irritation," adds Dr. Olulade.

Olulade says too much dust can injure and even damage lung cells. It can result in respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies, and chronic sinus infections.

Failure to stay hydrated and drinking too much alcohol can only make the problem worse.

If you’re headed out this weekend for part two, the best way to avoid festival flu is to drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, take allergy medicine, and inhalers, and consider wearing a mask.

"It should be a proper mask so it should be an N95 mask, that's really what's going to protect you from that particular matter," added Dr. Olulade.

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