Stay safe outdoors

Sun safety

Most of us enjoy spending time in the sun and but, despite the advice, some of us can still be prone to overdoing our exposure to the sun's rays.

It's easy to underestimate your time in the sun and not realise you're getting burnt.

While sunburn is usually short-lived and mild, it's important to avoid because it can increase the chances of developing skin cancer in later life.

Heat exhaustion causes extreme tiredness as a result of a decrease in blood pressure and blood volume.

It's caused by a loss of body fluids after being exposed to heat for a prolonged period of time.

Heatstroke is a more serious condition than heat exhaustion and occurs when the body's temperature becomes dangerously high. The body is no longer able to cool itself and starts to overheat.

To stay cool and make sure you feel tip top in the warm weather just follow these top tips:

  • Stay out of direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm (hottest part of the day).
  • Always use a sunscreen with a high protection factor (and re-apply regularly).
  • Have cool baths or showers or splash yourself with cool water. Placing your wrists under cool running water can help.
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and fruit juice.
  • Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol, as they can make you more dehydrated.
  • Wear loose, cool clothing and a hat outdoors.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses outdoors.

More advice can be found in the Government's Beat the Heat: Staying Safe in Hot Weather guidance and further advice on the affects of UV can be found from the Met Office's Weather Ready campaign.

The NHS have more comprehensive advice on sun safety for all the family.

Travelling abroad

Many of us enjoy travelling abroad and the same precautions should be taken while on holiday as at home.

Often the sun can be even stronger so a higher SPF sun screen may be needed.

Remember that you might not always be able to buy the same products in pharmacies in other countries that you can at home.

It's a good idea to be prepared and make sure that you have enough of any prescription medications that you need to last your whole holiday and for a few days after you return.

It can also be useful to prepare a travel first aid kit to take with you.

Travel First Aid Checklist:

  • Antihistamines
  • Painkillers
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Plasters
  • Insect Repellent
  • Insect bite treatment
  • Sunburn treatment
  • Sterile Dressings
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Medication for pre-existing conditions

Open water safety

Open water swimming refers to swimming in:

  • lakes
  • rivers
  • the sea

It has grown in popularity in recent years, and it can be good for your wellbeing.

Open water carries a number of biological, chemical or environment risks. Open water swimming can increase the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses and stomach bugs. Symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections

Anyone can become unwell from swimming in open water. The risk of becoming ill depends on various factors:

  • Children and beginner swimmers are more likely to swallow water accidentally.
  • Those with a weaker immune system are more at risk of infection.
  • Those swimming in rivers and estuaries (a coastal body of water where a river or stream meets the sea) are more likely to become unwell.
  • Heavy rainfall can wash harmful bacteria from farmland, urban areas and sewage to rivers, seas and bathing waters. This can affect the water quality.

You should avoid consuming open water where possible.

You should wash yourself with clean water and soap after an outdoor swim, paying attention to your hands and any cuts or scrapes.

If you do become unwell with any of the above symptoms, seek medical help and let them know you have been open water swimming. Do not swim again until you have been symptom free for at least 48 hours. Your doctor may advise a longer period.

For more information and top tips on keeping safe, see GOV.UK: Swim healthy.

See water quality and Open Water Quality Position Statement for information on the water quality of our drinking and coastal waters. 

Our staying safe at the coast web page provides guidance around lifeguards and beach safety.

Picnics and barbeques

Eating outdoors is a great way to enjoy good weather.

It also brings some added risks. The most common causes of food poisoning are:

  • Undercooked foods
  • Not storing foods at the correct temperature
  • Not sufficiently reheating cooked food
  • Leaving cooked food for too long in warm temperatures
  • Handling food with unwashed / dirty hands

It is very important to remember these things when planning a picnic or barbeque to make sure no one becomes ill.

Observe the following handy hints to prepare a safe and scrummy alfresco feast:

  • Keep cold perishable food in a fridge or cool box until it's time to serve.
  • Keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest possible time during preparation.
  • Store raw meat separately from ready to eat food.
  • Ensure all meat products are thoroughly cooked and piping hot before consumption.
  • Do not leave food out for more than one-two hours in warm weather.
  • Ensure hands are washed before handling food. When at a picnic use wet wipes and hand sanitizer if it's not possible to wash your hands.

Insect bites

Warm weather brings with it an increase in the amount of insects, some of which can bite or sting.

Most bites and stings can be easily treated at home and will clear up within a few hours / days.

The general advice for treating bites and stings is to remove the sting, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water and apply something cold to the skin.

If possible raise the affected area.

To reduce the risk of infection, apply antiseptic to the bite/sting and try not to scratch the skin.

If the bite or sting is on the face, call 111 for first aid advice as the reaction can be more severe.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread to humans by infected ticks.

Ticks are tiny spider like creatures that are found in woodland and heath areas.

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a distinctive circular rash (like a bullseye on a dartboard) around the site of the bite which usually appears between 3 and 30 days after the bite.

Other symptoms include flu-like symptoms, headaches and neck stiffness.

Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early.

For more information go to NHS: Lyme disease.

Health advice at your fingertips

It's a real worry when children become ill. Understandably, we don't want to take any risks.

Parents and carers can now find NHS advice at their fingertips to help look after their children's health.

'Looking after your child's health' is an important NHS guide for parents and carers of children aged 0 - 5 years.

The app gives easy to understand guidance on childhood illnesses, recognising when your child is unwell, and advice on when and where to seek further treatment.

Just search for 'NHS child health' on Google Play or Apple's App Store to download the app today.