As Summer approaches, we look forward to travelling, taking holidays, attending events and enjoying more time outdoors. There are some simple things we can all do to stay safe throughout summer and to keep illness at bay as we enjoy the longer days and better weather.
COVID-19 has not gone away, we are all learning to live with it. Thankfully the vaccine continues to be highly effective in preventing severe illness and antiviral treatments are now available for those who need them. However in recent weeks we have seen a small, but steady increase in cases. We can all follow simple steps to help protect ourselves, family and friends.
The best thing we can all do is make sure we are up to date with our vaccinations. These remain our best form of defence against the virus. It’s not too late to catch up if you’ve missed boosters or even first doses.
If you have any symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or feel unwell, try to stay at home or away from others – especially those who are elderly or vulnerable.
If you are meeting others indoors you should let lots of fresh air in. Open some windows to help with ventilation and in the sunny weather you could also plan to meet outside.
We should all continue to practice good hand hygiene, frequently washing our hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap. It might also be a good idea to wear a face covering in a crowded space such as public transport.
We should all continue to follow the most up-to date guidance which can be found here.
The weather can affect our health, particularly in those who are more vulnerable or have long-term health conditions. If hot weather hits this summer, you can help protect yourself and others by:
- Looking out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – older people, those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk
- Staying cool indoors – closing curtains on rooms that face the sun can keep the temperature lower in indoor spaces
- Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding excess alcohol
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm, when its strongest
- Walking in the shade, applying sunscreen regularly can protect your skin, and it’s helpful to wear a wide brimmed hat while outside on sunny days
Travelling abroad this year?
If you're planning to travel outside the UK, check health information for your destination before you go. You may need vaccines to protect you from serious diseases found in some parts of the world and may also need medication, for example to protect you against malaria.
Check the advice for your destination on TravelHealthPro and speak to your practice nurse, GP, pharmacist or a travel clinic ideally 4-6 weeks before travel to get appropriate advice for your trip. They can give you information about vaccinations and any extra precautions or medication you might need to take.
Be sure to check the COVID-19 rules and entry requirements for the country you are travelling to.
- Vaccines can prevent a number of different infections including some of the illnesses spread through food and water and some of the diseases spread by insects, such as yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis. However, there are a number of diseases which are not vaccine preventable. Take basic precautions with food and water and insect bite avoidance, carry a basic first aid kit to manage common problems and know when to see medical help
- Rabies is found throughout the world and all animals can catch rabies and pass it on. Avoid contact with wild and domestic animals where possible. If you are bitten, scratched or licked on broken skin, immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, and seek medical attention locally. You may be advised to start rabies post-exposure treatment, but always contact your GP on return to the UK to complete any treatment required. Further information about rabies is available in this leaflet for travellers. Check whether you’re visiting a place where rabies is present in animals and consider having a course of pre-exposure rabies vaccines if you are undertaking activities that might put you at greater risk of contact with animals or if you are visiting remote areas where medical care may not be readily available.
Checking you’re up to date on your routine vaccinations including MMR and MenACWY is important and helps to keep illnesses from spreading. If you are not sure which vaccines you’ve had, contact your GP surgery and if you are a parent or carer, you can look in your child’s red book (their health record). For some vaccines it’s never too late to catch up. The list of routine NHS vaccines can be seen on the NHS website here.
It’s also not too late to have the COVID vaccine. It doesn’t matter which dose you are due. Visit the NHS website to find your nearest vaccination centre or phone 119
For more advice on staying safe during the summer, visit the NHS website.
The outbreak of Monkeypox, largely affecting men who are gay or bisexual, is growing in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The infection can spread through close physical contact like skin-to-skin contact, kissing, sex or sharing things like bedding and towels.
Some examples of the symptoms of Monkeypox includes recent unusual spots, ulcers or blisters on your body, fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion as well as swollen glands.
Anyone can get Monkeypox, particularly if you have had close contact, including sexual contact, with an individual with symptoms. During a time when more people are mixing and spending time together, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms, particularly if you have recently had a new sexual partner.
Contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters and you’ve been either:
- in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have Monkeypox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past 3 weeks
- to West or Central Africa in the past 3 weeks
Avoid close contact with others until you have received medical advice.
There are some simple precautions you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten or stung by insects. It's particularly important to follow this advice if you've had a bad reaction to an insect bite or sting in the past or you're travelling to an area where there's a risk of picking up a serious illness.
The following measures can help you avoid insect bites and stings:
- Cover exposed skin – if you're outside at a time of day when insects are particularly active, such as sunrise or sunset, wearing loose clothing and keeping shoes on can help you avoid bites. Apply insect repellent to exposed skin – repellents that contain 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are most effective.
- Be mindful that mosquitoes and horseflies are commonly found near water.
Ticks are small spider-like creatures that are mainly found in woodland, heathland and areas with long grass, including in urban parks. They attach to your skin, and bite to suck blood. Bacteria in the ticks can lead to Lyme disease in some cases. Our blog has more detail.
You can reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick if you:
- Keep to footpaths and avoid areas of long grass when out walking
- Wear appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long-sleeved shirt and trousers)
- Check yourself for ticks when you have walked in these habitats, and check again at the end of the day to remove any ticks
- Wear light-coloured fabrics that may help you spot a tick on your clothes
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin
- Inspect your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including on your legs, arms and groin area, and particularly for children, check around the head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin, and waistband) and check your children and any pets. It’s important you remove ticks as soon as possible if you find them on your skin.
Watch our video on Lyme disease for more information:
Summer is a great time to enjoy a BBQ with family and friends. Ensuring meat is not left outside of the fridge for long periods and is cooked thoroughly can help prevent food poisoning. Handwashing before preparing food and after handing raw meat can help prevent bacteria spreading too.
Learn more about BBQ food safety here.