Coachella is one of the biggest music festivals of the year. It’s a great place to pick up good vibes, but many visitors come home with an unwanted souvenir: Coachella cough.
Also known as “festival flu,” 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.
In this article, we’ll tell you what Coachella cough is, what other diseases can be mistaken for it, and what you can do to come home healthy from your weekend in Indio.
What is Coachella Cough?
Coachella cough is described as a collection of flu-like symptoms that occur in visitors of Coachella or other crowded music festivals. It’s a post-festival illness that affects a large percentage of attendees.
One of the primary reasons that it’s specifically linked to Coachella is due to the location. This music festival takes place in Indio, CA, at the junction of the Colorado and Mojave deserts. There is no shortage of wind-borne dust in this area.
Additionally, the festival is scheduled just after the end of the winter “rainy” season, so there is plenty of pollen in the air.
There is also plenty of second-hand smoke in the air, as well as whatever respiratory infection is going around. This combination of factors creates the perfect environment for Coachella cough and festival flu to develop.
Festival Flu Symptoms
The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of a regular cold or the flu. This includes:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Body aches
Of course, the primary symptom of festival flu is Coachella cough. This may occur as the lungs tend to dry out in the desert air, which can take a few days to rehydrate. Failure to stay hydrated and drinking too much alcohol while at the festival will compound this problem.
You may also suffer nasal congestion. The drier the air, the tighter the mucus in nostrils and sinuses, and the less it can move. This may also go away in a few days when you return to a more humid environment.
Or you may experience post-nasal drip. This annoying symptom can result from allergies, common cold, fumes, dust, or some combination of all of these. It can also occur when larger particles of dust and debris get trapped in your nose.
How Can You Avoid Festival Flu?
The best way to avoid festival flu or Coachella cough is to take preventative steps. These include:
- Staying hydrated
- Wearing a mask
- Strengthening your immune system
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding touching your face
- Washing your hands
- Getting annual flu vaccines
Do Masks Help Prevent Festival Flu?
The CDC is well-known for recommending face masks to prevent the spread of respiratory infections. But if you are going to Coachella, you may also consider wearing a mask to prevent dust allergies.
German scientists studied the changes in allergy symptoms in people who wore masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. They recruited a group of allergy sufferers, 92 percent of whom had allergy symptoms at the beginning of the study.
Masks didn’t eliminate allergies, but the rate of reported allergy symptoms fell from 92 percent to 56 percent. Interestingly, the research team found an even greater reduction in eye allergy symptoms, even though the masks were, of course, worn over the mouth and nose.
Just 32 percent of mask wearers reported symptoms of eye allergies, down from 60 percent at the beginning of the study.
Take Vitamin C Before, During, and After the Festival
You can also avoid catching a cold at Coachella by taking vitamin C. Some researchers refer to vitamin C as the “Goldilocks vitamin.” You don’t want too little, and you don’t want too much.
To prevent colds, you need enough vitamin C to make it flow through your body. Clinical research has determined that this happens with a daily dosage of 2,500 mg.
If you take an extreme megadose, say, 10 thousand milligrams a day, or if you take high-dose vitamin C for more than a week, you can run into different problems. At extremely high concentrations, vitamin C stops being an antioxidant. It becomes a pro-oxidant that can cause cell damage.
However, your kidneys will attempt to remove excess vitamin C, so that when you go back to normal consumption, you can become vitamin C-deficient. Take high doses of C for one day before you go to Coachella, every day of the festival, and for a day when you get back.
How to Get Rid of Coachella Cough
If you do come down with Coachella cough, the best thing to do is drink plenty of fluids and rest. You can also try some of the following home remedies:
- Stay hydrated: This helps flush the toxins out of your body.
- Get plenty of rest: Your body needs rest to fight the infection.
- Suck on a lozenge: This may help alleviate coughing.
- Take Sudafed: This may help alleviate a stuffy nose.
- Take Mucinex: This may help with excessive phlegm production.
- Rinse your sinuses: This may help alleviate congestion.
- Use Flonase or Nasacort: This may help alleviate post-nasal drip.
Zinc to Get Rid of Festival Flu
It can also help to suck on a zinc lozenge if you can start just as soon as your first symptoms appear. The purpose of sucking on a lozenge is to get zinc into the back of your throat and up your nasal passages. Zinc may not work if you swallow it whole.
Zinc isn’t a super-mineral. It only reduces the likelihood you will develop full-fledged cold symptoms by about half. Like vitamin C, zinc is something you should not take in a high dose for more than seven days.
Complications of Coachella Cough
When symptoms of Coachella cough persist, chances are you picked up something else about the same time as you went to the festival.
Only your doctor can do diagnosis, but some conditions that produce similar symptoms include the following:
- COVID-19: You can find out if you caught COVID quickly with a home test. If it is positive, ask your doctor what to do next.
- Coccidioidomycosis: Also known as “valley fever,” this infection is caused by a fungus found in the soil of southern California and other desert regions. It results in coughing and flu-like symptoms along with chest pain and severe fatigue. It’s something you need medical care to overcome.
- Community-acquired pneumonia: Three kinds of bacteria cause most cases of community-acquired pneumonia, but it can also result from respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, herpesvirus, and influenza A and B. This condition causes symptoms ranging from difficulty breathing to diarrhea and can be challenging to diagnose.
If your Coachella cough is accompanied by a fever, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, see your doctor right away. These can be signs of something more serious.
What is Festival Flu?
Festival flu is a general term for the various illnesses people can pick up at music festivals. It includes everything from colds and flu to more serious infections. The term “festival flu” is often used interchangeably with “Coachella cough.”
What is the Treatment for Festival Flu?
There is no specific treatment for festival flu. However, you can try some home remedies to ease your symptoms, such as drinking plenty of fluids, sucking on a lozenge, or taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers to help with the symptoms.
What are Some Festival Flu Recovery Tips?
There are a few home remedies that can help ease your festival flu symptoms, including:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Resting as much as possible
- Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms
- Using a humidifier if you have a dry cough
- Gargling with warm salt water to soothe a sore throat
- Consuming chicken soup or other hot liquids to help clear congestion
- Avoiding dairy products, which can increase mucus production
- Eat food that can reduce inflammation
How Long Does Coachella Cough Last?
Coachella cough generally lasts 3 to 7 days but may persist for up to 2 weeks. You should see a doctor if your symptoms worsen or won’t go away.
What is Festival Fever and How to Combat It?
Festival fever is a general term for the various illnesses people can pick up at music festivals. It includes everything from colds and flu to more serious infections. This term is similar to “Coachella cough” and “festival flu.”
You can combat festival fever by using the methods mentioned above, such as drinking plenty of fluids and resting as much as possible.
While festival flu may cause some uncomfortable symptoms, don’t let the fear of an infection spoil your fun at Coachella. It is generally a short-lived illness that will go away on its own.
Taking a few simple preventative measures can go a long way in avoiding getting sick altogether.
However, if you do start to feel ill, be sure to see a doctor if your symptoms worsen or don’t go away after a couple of weeks. Have fun, stay safe, and thanks for reading!
John Landry, BS, RRT
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- Mengi, Erdem, et al. “The Effect of Face Mask Usage on the Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms in Patients With Pollen Allergy During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” National Library of Medicine, Am J Otolaryngol, Jan. 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8431835.
- Choi, Sejin, et al. “Evaluation of Wearing Comfort of Dust Masks.” National Library of Medicine, PLoS One, 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7446894.
- Hemilä, Harri, and Elizabeth Chalker. “Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold.” National Library of Medicine, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Jan. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8078152.
- Singh, Meenu, and Rashmi R. Das. “Zinc for the Common Cold.” National Library of Medicine, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, June 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23775705.
- “Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever).” California Department of Public Health, www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Coccidioidomycosis.aspx#:%7E:text=Valley%20fever%20(also%20called%20coccidioidomycosis,contains%20the%20Valley%20fever%20fungus.