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Summer health

Health advice and tips for throughout the season

Summer can be a fun time of year, but it’s important to be ready for seasonal mishaps and illnesses that can affect your health. View our health advice to keep you and your loved ones fit and well during the nicer weather.

Medicine and first aid

Make sure you have some over-the-counter remedies 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.

Good things to have include:

  • 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
  • indigestion remedies like an antacid
  • mild laxatives for constipation
  • a first aid kit with plasters, bandages and antiseptic wipes for cuts and scrapes
  • 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Remember to always follow the advice on the pack and do not get too much as medicines go out of date.

Read more about how to treat minor injuries like cuts, blisters and stings

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 one or two nights. You should check you have enough to cover the duration of your trip. If you need to order more, order only what you need and in plenty of time.

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

Access to medicines self-help guide

Complete our self-help guide to find out what to do next.

BBQ food preparation advice

Sunny weather means it’s tempting to fire up the barbeque. It’s important to follow the relevant food safety advice in order to avoid contamination of your food and avoid food poisoning.



  • 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


  • do not use a sauce or marinade for cooked food that’s had raw meat in it

Avoiding bugs and germs outdoors

The summer months are an opportunity to get out and enjoy our outdoor space. This can be brilliant for both our physical and mental health.

But, we also need to be aware that a small number of people each year are affected by infections caught outdoors.

Further information on avoiding bugs and germs outdoors, including how to wash your hands effectively



  • wear gloves, especially if you’re handling compost as Legionella bacteria can be present
  • consider wearing a mask if you’re working on anything dusty
  • wash your hands when you have finished working outside


Wash your hands thoroughly if you have been in contact with farm animals or the environment where they are kept like gates, fencing or buildings. They can carry germs like E.coli O157 and Cryptosporidium.


Drink clean water. Germs can contaminate lochs, rivers and burns (streams) and can be harmful if swallowed. This includes germs like E. coli O157, Cryptosporidium and Leptospira.

You should ensure you have enough clean drinking water with you when you’re outside. If this isn’t possible, untreated water can be made safe to drink by boiling it or using chemical treatments.


Be aware of when and where you can be bitten by ticks. Ticks in Scotland can carry the germ that causes Lyme disease.

Find out more about tick bites and how to treat them

Health conditions due to 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

10 to 15 minutes of unprotected Scottish sun exposure is safe for all.

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

Read more about sunburn, including treatments and when to get medical help

High risk groups

Everyone is at risk during hot weather. But, some groups of people are at higher risk of becoming unwell. These groups include:

  • people over 65
  • babies
  • young children
  • people with underlying health conditions
  • people experiencing homelessness


  • 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)
  • use sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (sun protection factor 30) to protect against UVB
  • use sunscreen on any part of the body you can’t cover up
  • apply sunscreen as directed on the label
  • use a sunscreen with at least 4-star UVA protection
  • re-apply sunscreen regularly
  • always re-apply sunscreen after being in water

Keeping cool in heat


  • drink plenty of cool fluids to stay hydrated – don’t wait to get thirsty
  • eat cold foods with high water content like salads and fruit
  • take a cool shower, bath or body wash
  • sprinkle water over skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck
  • cool your home – close windows and curtains in rooms that face the sun
  • plan activities like dog walking for cooler times of the day like morning or evening


  • do not drink alcohol – this can leave you dehydrated
  • do not do extreme physical activity like running in very hot weather

Signs of heat exhaustion

Sometimes being in the sun is unavoidable.

Newly updated UKHSA guidance contains information on how to ‘Beat the Heat’. This includes information on how to recognise the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

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

How to cool down

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


  • move to a cooler place, like a shaded room indoors
  • remove unnecessary or extra clothing
  • drink more fluids like cool water or rehydration drinks
  • eat foods with high water content like ice lollies
  • apply cool water to exposed skin through spraying or sponging

When to get medical help

Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if the person is treated within 30 minutes and symptoms begin to improve.

If you don’t take action to cool down, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke which is a medical emergency.

Phone 111 if you or someone else:

  • has symptoms of heat exhaustion that you’re struggling to treat or that you need advice about

Phone 999 now if:

You or someone else has signs of heatstroke, including:

  • still feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place, being cooled and drinking fluids
  • a very high temperature
  • hot skin that’s not sweating and might look red (this can be harder to see on brown and black skin)
  • a fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing or shortness of breath
  • confusion and lack of coordination
  • a seizure or fit
  • loss of consciousness

Put the person in the recovery position if they lose consciousness while you’re waiting for help.

Bumps, bruises and other accidents

Being outside in nicer weather can increase the likelihood of accidents.

Minor injuries

Carrying a small first aid kit can help to deal with minor ailments, like:

Trips or falls

Trips, slips or falls may also be more likely when exploring or playing outdoors. This can cause damage to the muscles, bones or joints.

Get advice about issues in the muscles bones and joints, including:

Open water swimming

Open water swimming has become very popular in Scotland. It means swimming in lochs, rivers, seas and reservoirs, rather than swimming pools. But, there are risks if you choose to open water swim. This includes:

  • poor water quality
  • drowning
  • cold water shock
  • currents and rip tides

Public Health Scotland have further information on open water swimming and how to stay safe

Right care, right place

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

Visit our resource on the right care, right place for information on how access the correct local services in your area.