Staying safe during the summer – UK Health Security Agency

A man and child both in blue and white plaid shirts, walking through a field during a sunset

As summer approaches, we look forward to traveling, taking vacations, attending events and spending more time outdoors. There are some simple things we can all do to stay safe all summer and keep illness at bay while enjoying the longer days and better weather.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is not gone, we are all learning to live with it. Fortunately, the vaccine remains highly effective in preventing serious 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 the number of cases. We can all follow simple steps to protect ourselves, family and friends.

The best thing we can all do is make sure we are up to date on our vaccinations. These remain our best defense against the virus. It’s not too late to catch up if you missed boosters or even first doses.

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or feel unwell, try to stay home or away from others, especially those who are elderly or frail.

If you meet others indoors, be sure to let in plenty of fresh air. Open a few windows for ventilation and in sunny weather you can also meet outside.

We should all continue to practice good hand hygiene and wash our hands regularly for 20 seconds with warm water and soap. It may also be a good idea to wear a face covering in a crowded area such as public transportation.

We should all continue to follow the most current guidelines found here.

heat waves

The weather can affect our health, especially in those who are more frail or have long-term health problems. When the weather gets hot this summer, you can help protect yourself and others by:

  • Beware of people who struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – especially the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone are at high risk
  • Stay cool indoors – closing curtains for rooms facing the sun can keep the indoor temperature lower
  • Drinking a lot and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
  • Try to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when it’s strongest
  • Walking in the shade and regularly applying sunscreen can protect your skin, and it’s helpful to wear a wide-brimmed hat on sunny days outside

Traveling abroad this year?

If you plan to travel outside the UK, please check the health information for your destination before you travel. You may need vaccines to protect you against serious diseases that are common in some parts of the world and you may also need medicines, for example to protect you against malaria.

Check the advice for your destination on TravelHealthPro and talk to your practice nurse, GP, pharmacist or travel clinic, ideally 4-6 weeks before departure, to get appropriate advice for your trip. They can give you information about vaccinations and any extra precautions or medicines you may need.

Be sure to check the COVID-19 rules and entry requirements of the country you are traveling to.

  • Vaccines can prevent a number of different infections, including some diseases spread through food and water and some diseases spread by insects, such as yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis. However, there are a number of diseases that cannot be prevented by vaccination. Take basic food and water precautions and avoid insect bites, carry a basic first aid kit to manage common problems, and know when to seek medical attention
  • Rabies occurs all over the world and all animals can get and pass on rabies. Avoid contact with wild and domestic animals whenever possible. If you are bitten, scratched, or licked on broken skin, immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and seek emergency medical attention. You may be advised to start rabies treatment after exposure, but always check with your GP when you return to the UK to complete the required treatment. More information about rabies is available in this leaflet for travelers. Find out if you are visiting a place where animal rabies occurs and consider a course of pre-exposure vaccines for rabies if you are engaged in activities that put you at greater risk of contact with animals or if you are visiting remote areas where medical care may not be readily available .

Read more about travel sickness, vaccinations and travel health advice.

Vaccinations

Making sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, including MMR and MenACWY, is important and helps prevent disease from spreading. If you are not sure which vaccines you have had, check with your GP and if you are a parent or caregiver you can check 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 here on the NHS website.

It’s also not too late to have the COVID vaccine. It does not matter which dose you should receive. Visit the NHS website to find your nearest vaccination center or call 119

Visit the NHS website for more advice on staying safe during the summer.

monkeypox

The Monkeypox outbreak, which mainly affects men who are gay or bisexual, is increasing in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The infection can spread through close physical contact, such as skin-to-skin contact, kissing, sex, or sharing things like bedding and towels.

Some examples of the symptoms of Monkeypox include recent unusual spots, sores or blisters on your body, fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion, as well as swollen glands.

Anyone can get Monkeypox, especially if you’ve had close contact, including sexual contact, with a person with symptoms. At a time when more people are hanging out and spending time together, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms, especially if you’ve recently had a new sexual partner.

Contact a sexual health clinic if you have a blistering rash and you are either:

  • being in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or could have Monkeypox (even if they have not been tested) in the past 3 weeks
  • to West or Central Africa in the last 3 weeks

Avoid close contact with others until you have received medical advice.

insect bites

There are some simple precautions you can take to reduce the risk of being bitten or stung by insects. It is especially important to follow this advice if you have had a bad reaction to an insect bite or sting in the past, or if you are traveling to an area where there is a risk of contracting a serious illness.

The following measures can help you avoid insect bites and stings:

  • Cover exposed skin – if you are outside at a time of day when insects are particularly active, such as dawn or dusk, wearing loose clothing and shoes can help prevent bites. Apply repellent to exposed skin – repellents containing 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are most effective.
  • Keep in mind that mosquitoes and horseflies are often found near water.

sign

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that are mainly found in forests, moors and areas with tall grass, including in city parks. They attach to your skin and bite to suck blood. Bacteria in ticks can lead to Lyme disease in some cases. Our blog has more details.

You can reduce the risk of a tick bite if you:

  • Stay on footpaths and avoid areas with long grass when walking
  • Please wear appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long-sleeved shirt and pants)
  • Check yourself for ticks if you have walked in these habitats and check again at the end of the day to remove any ticks
  • Wear light-colored fabrics that allow you to see a tick on your clothes
  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin
  • Inspect your skin for ticks, especially at the end of the day, also on your legs, arms and groin area, and especially in children, check around the head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin and waistband) and check your children and any pets. It is important that you remove ticks as soon as possible if you find them on your skin.

Watch our Lyme disease video for more information:

Food

Summer is a great time to enjoy a barbecue with family and friends. Making sure meat is not kept out of the refrigerator for long periods and cooked properly can help prevent food poisoning. Washing hands before preparing food and after handing raw meat can also help prevent bacteria from spreading.

Learn more about BBQ food safety here.