Summer health

Be prepared with summer health advice to keep you and your loved ones safe and well.

Summer means longer days, nicer weather, trips away and more time outdoors. But, it can also mean an increase in seasonal mishaps and illnesses. Be prepared and view summer health advice to keep you and your loved ones safe and well.

Medicine and first aid 

Make sure you have some over-the-counter medicines at home for common illnesses. It’s also a good idea to have a first aid kit available.

Your pharmacist can advise you on the best medicines for you and your family.

Consider keeping the following at home:

  • paracetamol and ibuprofen for pain relief (check the label or speak to your pharmacist to check it’s suitable for you)
  • anti-histamines to help allergies
  • anti-diarrhoeal medication for diarrhoea
  • rehydration sachets
  • indigestion remedies like an antacid
  • mild laxatives for constipation
  • a first aid kit with plasters, bandages and antiseptic wipes for cuts and scrapes, and ice packs for any minor sprains or strains
  • a thermometer to check for fevers
  • medicines specifically for children (your pharmacist can advise on the most suitable ones to keep in the house)

Remember to always follow the advice on the pack and do not get too much as medicines go out of date.

Prescribed medication and travel

If you rely on regular medicine, remember to take this with you when you travel away from home, even if it’s only for 1 or 2 nights.

You should check you have enough medication to cover all of your trip. If you need to order more, only order what you need and order it in plenty of time.

If you run out of prescribed medicines and your GP practice is closed, there are ways to get an emergency supply.

You can use the Accessing Medicines Self-Help Guide if you’re having difficulty getting the medicine you need.

BBQ food preparation advice 

It’s common to fire up the BBQ in sunny weather. But, it’s important to follow food safety advice. This helps to avoid contaminating your food and food poisoning.

Do

  • follow all instructions on the packaging – some foods can be cooked from frozen, while others need to be defrosted in advance
  • defrost meat thoroughly before cooking, ideally in your fridge
  • cook food in the oven before finishing on the barbeque to ensure it’s cooked all the way through
  • keep meat and ready to eat foods separate – like salad and bread
  • turn food regularly to cook it evenly
  • use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats
  • heat foods until steaming hot before eating
  • wash ready to eat salad bags and all foods that can be eaten without peeling

Don't

  • do not use a sauce or marinade for cooked food that’s had raw meat in it
  • do not wash uncooked meat
  • do not eat hot foods that have been left out in the heat – especially foods like cooked rice, cooked meats, shellfish and dairy products

Avoiding bugs and germs outdoors

The summer months are an opportunity to get out and enjoy outdoor spaces. This can be brilliant for both your physical and mental health. But, be mindful that a small number of people each year are affected by infections caught outdoors.

Do

  • wear gloves while gardening, especially if you handle compost, as there can be Legionella bacteria
  • wear a mask if you’re working on anything dusty
  • wash your hands after doing outdoor activities
  • wash your hands thoroughly if you’ve been in contact with farm animals or the environment where they’re kept – like a gate, fence or building
  • be aware of when and where you can be bitten by ticks – ticks in Scotland can carry the germ that causes Lyme disease
  • take plenty of clean drinking water when you’re outdoors
  • use chemical treatments or boil water to make untreated water safe to drink

Don't

  • do not drink untreated water – germs like E.coli can contaminate lochs, rivers and burns and can be harmful if swallowed

You can find more information about bugs and germs outdoors on NHS inform:

Health conditions caused by hot weather

It’s tempting to make the most of the outdoors when the sun comes out. But, it’s important to do it safely and be aware of the effects of the sun’s heat and rays.

Stay safe in the sun

You can reduce the amount of UV radiation damage from the sun by following some precautions.

Find out what to do if you get sunburn

Do

  • keep covered up during the summer months – especially when the sun is at its hottest (11am to 3pm)
  • cover up with a long-sleeved shirt
  • wear a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck
  • wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from damage
  • get into the shade when the sun is at its hottest (11am to 3pm)
  • make sure you have enough sunscreen for all the family
  • use a sunscreen with at least 4-star UVA protection and an SPF 30 (sun protection factor 30) to protect against UVB
  • use sunscreen on any part of the body you can’t cover up – sunscreen doesn’t block all sun rays but can help in areas that can’t be covered
  • apply sunscreen as directed on the label
  • re-apply sunscreen regularly and liberally
  • always re-apply sunscreen after being in water
  • remember to apply sunscreen to yourself as well as children

How to keep cool in heat

Do

  • stay hydrated by drinking plenty of cool fluids and water – don’t wait to get thirsty
  • eat cold foods with high water content like salads and fruit
  • stay cool by taking a cool shower, bath or body wash
  • sprinkle water over skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck
  • take care drinking alcohol – this can leave you dehydrated

Don't

  • do not do extreme physical activity without getting medical advice

Signs of heatstroke

Sometimes being in the sun is unavoidable but there’s guidance on how to ‘beat the heat’ and stay safe in hot weather.

The signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke include:

  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • feeling faint
  • headache
  • muscle cramps
  • feeling or being sick
  • heavy sweating
  • intense thirst

If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, they will need to be cooled down. To do this, they should:

  • be moved to a cooler place, like a shaded room indoors
  • have unnecessary or extra clothing removed
  • drink extra fluids – for example cool water or rehydration drinks, or foods with a high water content like an ice lolly
  • apply cool water to exposed skin through spraying or sponging

Heat exhaustion is not normally serious if the person is treated within 30 minutes and symptoms begin to improve. But, if no steps are taken to cool the person down, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke. This is a medical emergency.

Phone 111 if you’re worried about symptoms or your symptoms are getting worse. Phone 999 in an emergency or if you think someone has heatstroke.

Bumps, bruises and other accidents 

Being out and about in nicer weather can increase the likelihood of accidents.

Minor injuries

Carry a small first aid kit help to deal with minor ailments, like cuts, grazes and blisters.

Trips or falls

Trips, slips or falls while exploring or playing outdoors are common. Sometimes, these can cause damage to the muscles, bones or joints.

Find out more about musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions

Insect bites and stings

Most insect bites and stings can be treated through the following steps:

  1. Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  2. Apply a cold compress.
  3. Take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with pain or swelling.

Jellyfish and other water creatures

Being bare foot on Scotland’s beaches and shores can be enjoyable in sunny weather. But, it can also increase the risk of being stung by wildlife like jellyfish, sea urchins, or weever fish.

If you’re stung, you should:

  1. Rinse the affected area with sea water (not fresh water).
  2. Remove any spines or stings with tweezers – do not use your bare hands.
  3. Soak the site in warm water (as warm as you can tolerate).
  4. Take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to manage pain.

Most stings from sea creatures in Scotland are mild and can be safely self-managed.

Non-urgent advice: Phone 111 if you have:

Been stung by a sea creature and have:

  • severe pain that’s not going away
  • been stung on your face or genitals
  • been stung by a stingray

Immediate action required: Phone 999 or go to A&E if:

You have been stung and have:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • fits or seizures
  • severe swelling around the affected area
  • severe bleeding
  • vomiting
  • lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Open water swimming

Swimming in open water like lochs, rivers, seas and reservoirs has become very popular in Scotland. But, you should be aware of the risks of swimming in these areas. These include:

  • poor water quality (contaminated water)
  • drowning
  • cold water shock
  • currents and rip tides

Further information on how to swim safely in Scotland’s outdoor water

Right care, right place

The way we access urgent care has changed. If you need more help, it’s important that you know how to get the right care, in the right place.

Find out more information on right care, right place and how to access the correct local services in your area