How to have a safe and healthy Holi: Actionable tips and precautions by Holistic Buddha

For many of us, Holi is the ultimate festival: Holi can be inclusive; young kids are not afraid of colours like they may be of crackers, and the whole family along with extended friends can get in on the age-old custom of putting colours on each other. The tradition of meeting other family members after the revelry (and the long mid-day nap) is the perfect culmination of a happy day.

Having said that, the festival can also get rowdy. People will hurt themselves by slipping and falling, they can get skin or eye allergies from synthetic colours, and they can get sick from being wet and cold for too long. There are also complaints of gastric distress, bruising and hangovers.

What are some steps you can take to be a little safer without restricting yourself too much? And if you do feel sick, what can you do to make yourself feel better? Read on to know how to navigate some common Holi-related issues, and have a happy, healthy Holi. 

1. Eye irritation 

Traditionally, Holi colours were made from naturally occurring ingredients. Green was derived from neem leaves, yellow and red from turmeric (turmeric goes red when mixed with lime). Henna leaves, marigolds, pomegranate, indigo and charcoal were also used for other shades. Advances in synthetic chemistry have meant that artificial colours with their variety and vibrancy have now become the norm.

The problem is that this market is poorly regulated, so the average reveller is unaware of the chemicals their body may be subjected to on Holi. Ingredients such as malachite green, lead oxide, and copper sulphate can irritate the eyes. Corneal inflammation and scratches from foreign bodies are commonly reported from using synthetic colours.

Here’s what to do:

  • If you feel pain or a stinging sensation in your eyes, use copious amounts of water to flush the irritant.
  • Remember, the longer the chemicals stay in your body, the more damage they will do. So, if the pain does not subside in a short time, visit your doctor – you can continue washing your eye in clean, drinking water on the way.
  • If the pain is intense and doesn’t go away, you should visit your doctor for saline flushing or more specialised eye drops to address the problem.
  • As a preventive step, experts suggest using swimming goggles (or at least sunglasses) to prevent the colours from getting into your eyes. It might feel excessive, but beats going to the doctor on the holiday.

2. Cold, cough and fever

Most people will play Holi with water: there may be a small pool where all the water balloons are filled, mixing stations with buckets full of water, and water cannons add their own dimension of fun. Some years, there is still a slight nip in the air on Holi and many people tend to shiver through the day and catch a cold. 

Here’s what to do:

  • You can try limiting water play if you are vulnerable or recovering from a cold.
  • Seek places with more sun so you can dry off faster, and if you begin to feel too cold, grab a towel and dry yourself as much as possible.
  • If this doesn’t help, and your friends are playing with water, it might be a good idea to stop, take a warm shower and change into dry clothes. You can enjoy the warm food, drinks and company instead. 
  • If you do end up getting a fever, the best course of action is to get plenty of rest and fluids and let your body fight off whatever infection you may have contracted.
  • For temperatures above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, you can take an antipyretic such as Crocin to ease discomfort. If you have other issues such as difficulty breathing, you should visit your doctor. The fine granular matter in the Holi colour may have given you a respiratory issue. 

3. Skin allergies 

The chemicals added to the colours can cause skin allergies, breakouts, itchiness and redness. There are some practical steps you can take to mitigate this.

Here’s what to do:

  • You can wear long-sleeved shirts and pyjamas to limit direct exposure to colours. You can also tie up your hair and put on a shower cap or swimming cap.
  • Preparing in advance also goes a long way. Oil your hair and body before going out to play. Use generous amounts of oil: the oil discourages the colours from clinging on to the skin and also help the skin retain moisture. You will find that oiling the body adequately will make it easier for you to get rid of all the colours afterwards. Pay extra attention to the folds of the ears, the nose, the belly button: any place the colours might congeal.
  • Limit the use of products that can dry your skin – especially drying face or oil removing washes – both before and after play. Do not use a face scrub after playing.
  • Don’t spend excessive amounts of time in the sun and give yourself time to recover from the festival.
  • If you do have some breakouts, use natural ingredients like aloe vera. If the skin reaction is more serious and you are in discomfort, visit your doctor. 

4. Bruises from water balloons

While water balloons are fun, they can also cause injury if thrown too hard. Bruising happen when blood vessels close to the skin break and ooze blood into the surrounding tissues. 

Bruises are usually minor and can be treated at home.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start by resting the area and not exerting yourself too much.
  • Use ice packs for 15-20 minutes, several times a day for two to three days until the swelling abates.
  • Keep the affected area elevated for as long as you can. 
  • If you are in pain, you can take a mild painkiller. If the pain does not subside in three days, however, you should visit your doctor. 

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