You’re seated in a venue with a thousand other people. Which do you feel more threatened by: a fire, or a stranger sneezing on you?
Chances are, most of us aren’t very concerned about either. Which is an acceptable attitude to have — both pose relatively minor health risks. But they pose risks nonetheless. And with a little more mindfulness you can better protect your health and safety in the rare case that something goes wrong at the concert hall or football game. We’re not suggesting you avoid crowds. Just be sure to follow these tips to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy while you’re out living life to the fullest.
1. Keep your hands in your pockets. Remember the golden equation for getting sick: Germ gets on hands, hands touch face, germ enters body, you get sick. Where there are crowds, there are germs — millions of them — on every surface. Don’t touch them and they won’t make you sick.
2. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer. Use it after porta-potty visits, before eating, and anytime you feel contaminated by the microbes of the masses.
3. Stick a pair of earplugs in your purse or pocket. If the event gets too loud, or you get stuck standing next to the speakers, stick ’em in your ears.
4. Look for the emergency exit signs as you enter a large venue. It takes only seconds — and those seconds could turn out to be the best you ever spent. One study found that more than half of fatalities at concerts occurred when people were trying to get out of the building or concert setting.
5. Note how many people the building can safely hold (the figure should be on a sign near the front door). If you feel that number is exceeded, reduce it by one — yourself.
6. Arrange a place to meet your family or friends in case you get separated. Actually, you should choose two places: one inside and one outside.
7. In the rare event of a stampede, try to move sideways to the crowd until you get to a wall. Then press yourself against it until the crowd dissipates, or you find a better exit. It doesn’t happen often, but people do get trampled to death. If you’ve memorized the emergency exits, you’ll have better luck getting to one that the rest of the crowd may not have noticed.
8. Pack your own lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples will keep for the whole day and will help forestall your kids’ pleas for junk food from the vendors at the event site. If you can’t avoid buying from food carts, check out the vendor. Does his cart look clean? Are his hands clean? Is he handling the food with gloves? Does he handle money and then touch the food? It’s hard to tell just by looking at it if food will make you sick, but you should definitely avoid undercooked (pink) meats and meat that is not hot when served. The last thing you need when you’re in a place that only has porta-potties is food poisoning.
9. Remember to put a wad of tissues in your purse or pocket. Now you have emergency toilet paper if you have to hit those porta-potties.
10. Put water bottles in the freezer the night before the event. You’ll save money on overpriced bottled water at the event, and as the ice melts, you’ll have nice cold water on hand to stay hydrated.
11. Dress in layers. The crowd is pressing in around you, you feel overly warm … and suddenly the ground comes up to meet you. Don’t let it happen. If you’ve dressed in layers, you can shed one of them if you get too hot. If you only have one layer to start with, you might just get arrested! Of course, layers work the other way too. If the temperature drops as the game goes into overtime, you’ll be prepared.
12. Leave before the curtain call. You’ll beat the crowd, get out of the parking garage more quickly, and avoid ruining your lovely time out with an evening-ending bout of blood-pressure-raising stress.