MANILA, Philippines – Are you ready for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines?
If you’re planning to attend his public events – such as the mass at the Quirino Grandstand and the papal motorcade – know that there are health and safety risks wherever large, eager crowds gather.
Here are tips from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) on how to keep in good physical and mental condition as you wait to catch that first glimpse of the Pope.
1. Beware of stampedes.
At rare events like this with possibly millions of people in attendance and palpable excitement in the air, stampedes are known to happen. Keep a close eye on the crowd around you.
You may have to make a quick decision on whether staying where you are is safe. Have an exit plan. If people start getting too rough or uncontrollable, extricate yourself from the crowd.
2. Bring enough food and water.
The large crowds will likely make street vendors and restaurants inaccessible for a long period of time. You’re also not likely to want to leave your place if you already have a good vantage point.
So pack enough food and water to last you the entire day. Limit food to sandwiches, candies or other food that won’t make a mess and are easy to eat. Water will prevent against dehydration and heat stroke. (Read other Palace guidelines here)
3. Bring your medication.
Bring the medicines you are required to take, as well as pills to cure a bad stomach or dizziness.
4. Keep cool.
Expect the sun to be out and prepare accordingly. Wear light, loose clothes that ensure maximum comfort. Since shade may be hard to come by and umbrellas will block the view of other people, wear a hat with a visor instead.
5. Identify the nearest health station.
DOH Spokesman Dr Lyndon Lee Suy said there will be more than 20 health stations strategically placed all over Quirino Granstand and surrounding areas. These stations will be staffed with 5 to 8 health workers equipped with first aid tools. There will also be ambulances on standby.
Once you’ve positioned yourself, look for the nearest health station and keep in mind how to get there in case of emergencies.
6. Have a buddy system.
Make sure you have someone who can help you if you start feeling unwell. If this happens, tell your buddy right away instead of holding it in. This way, your buddy can bring you to the nearest health station before your condition worsens.
7. Be ready to walk.
Cars will be prohibited from accessing many areas around the venue which means you may have to walk more than you are used to.
Make sure you are fit to take the strain. Wear the right shoes and clothes and don’t burden yourself with a heavy bag, which Malacañang says you would not be allowed to bring in anyway.
If you have cardiovascular problems which may be triggered by the strain, consider staying home or watching from an area that is easier to get to, said PMA president Dr Minerva Calimag.
8. Be prepared for potty problems.
When you’ve found a great spot and the Pope is only a few feet away, you might not want to leave your place even if your kidneys are full to bursting. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure you’ve gone to the bathroom before the program starts.
You can also consider wearing adult diapers. As Lee Suy says, “It may sound funny but that would help.”
The point is to not hold in if you really need to go. That may cause more health problems later on, such as Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
9. In some cases, it may be best to stay home.
If you are already sick with a cold, fever or other health conditions, it may be best to stay at home and watch the events unfold from there, said Calimag.
The same goes for pregnant women who will have to put up with the jostling and pushing of an excited crowd.
10. Make it easy to find your child.
If you plan to bring your kids, put your address or contact information in their bag or clothes. If they get lost in the crowd, whoever finds them knows where to bring them.