Safe Summer

Stay safe this summer

During the warmer weather, we enjoy longer days and sunshine, however this can result in some unwanted health issues. Together with our GPs we have put together advice and tips to help you stay well this summer. Click on the links below to find out more.

Be tick smart >

With the arrival of the warm weather, now is a good time to brush up on your knowledge of ticks, what they are, where they live, the diseases they can carry, and how to minimise your risk of infection.

You can find ticks throughout the year, but they are most active between spring and autumn. Ticks can transmit bacteria that cause disease, such as Lyme Disease.

Although not all tick bites result in disease, it is important to know how to avoid tick bites and what action to take if you or your family get bitten. Learn more in this video featuring Dr Lindsey Kinlin.

What are ticks and where can you find them 

Ticks are small, spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including people. They are usually found in woodlands, grassland, moorland, heathland and some urban parks and gardens. 

Ticks don’t jump or fly, they climb onto your clothes or skin when you brush against something they are on. They then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.  It may take several days before a tick drops off your skin.

To minimise the risk of being bitten by a tick, you should:

  • keep to paths and away from long grass or overgrown vegetation if possible, as ticks crawl up long grass in their search for a feed
  • wear appropriate clothing in tick infested areas (long sleeved shirt and long trousers tucked into socks). Light coloured fabrics are useful, as it is easier to see ticks against a light background
  • consider using insect repellents
  • inspect skin frequently and remove any attached ticks

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks can transmit bacteria that causes diseases such as Lyme Disease, which can lead to very serious health conditions if left untreated. Symptoms of Lyme Disease can include flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:

  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • headaches
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • chills
  • neck stiffness

A characteristic expanding rash which looks like a bulls-eye pattern is present in most cases. You  may not always remember being bitten by a tick, so if you have spent time outdoors and develop any of these symptoms, seek advice from your GP.

Lyme Disease can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Without treatment, more serious conditions such as viral-like meningitis, facial palsy, nerve damage and arthritis can develop, so prevention and early detection are crucial.

How to check for ticks
When you are outdoors for a long period of time, make it a habit to look over your clothes/body and  brush off any ticks you find. When you get home, carry out a more thorough check by removing your clothes and having a good look and feel for any ticks – look out for anything as tiny as a freckle or a speck of dirt.  Tick bites may not hurt and you don’t always notice you’ve been bitten, so make sure your thoroughly check yourself, your children and your pets.

Ticks prefer warm, moist places on your body especially the:

  • groin area
  • waist
  • arm pits
  • behind the knee
  • along hair lines

Young children are more commonly bitten on the head/scalp so check around their neck, behind the ears and a long the hairline. Don’t forget to check you pets’ bedding too!

What to do if you have been bitten

If you do get bitten, removing the tick quickly and correctly can help to reduce any potential risk. The safest way to remove a tick is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, or a tick removal tool:

  • grasp the tick as close to the skin as  possible
  • pull upwards slowly and firmly, as mouthparts left in the skin can cause a local infection
  • once removed, apply antiseptic to the bite area, or wash with soap and water and keep an eye on it for several weeks for any changes

Contact your GP if you begin to feel unwell and remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spend time outdoors.

More information about ticks and Lyme Disease is available on NHS Choices.

Dealing with hayfever >

With the arrival of spring, many of us will be spending more time outdoors, either in our gardens or local parks. But it’s not all good news if you have hay fever.

Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life and you will experience hay fever if you have an allergic reaction to pollen. It is usually worse between late March and September, especially when it’s warm, humid and windy. 

Learn more in this video featuring Dr Richard Sandford-Hill.

Symptoms of hay fever

Your symptoms will vary in severity depending on the weather conditions and pollen count, and they include:

  • frequent sneezing
  • runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red or watery eyes
  • an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • cough, caused by postnasal drip

You may also experience the following symptoms,

  • the loss of your sense of smell
  • facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses)
  • headaches
  • earache
  • tiredness and fatigue

Although hay fever doesn’t pose a serious threat to health, it can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life as it can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at work or school.

Treating hay fever

Your hay fever symptoms can be treated by you going to visit your local pharmacist and using over the counter medications, such as antihistamines. Various treatments for hay fever include:

  • Antihistamines – are usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but they may not help with clearing a blocked nose.  They are available in tablet form and also a nasal spray and eye drops.
  • Corticosteriod nasal sprays and drops – can help reduce the inflammation inside of your nose and prevent the symptoms of hay fever.
  • Corticosteroid tablets – your GP may prescribe you with a course of corticosterioid tables for five to seven days if you require rapid short-term relief from severe hay fever symptoms.
  • Nasal decongestants – this can relieve a blocked nose by reducing the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose making breathing easier.
  • Eye drops – treat hay fever symptoms that affect your eyes, such as redness, itchiness and watering 
  • Immunotherapy – if you have persistent hay fever symptoms that are not relieved by the above, you may be referred  for immunotherapy.  This involves gradually introducing you to small amounts of pollen and monitoring your allergic reaction in a controlled environment.

Preventing hay fever

It’s very difficult to completely avoid pollen, however, reducing your exposure to pollen should ease your symptoms. More information about hay fever is available on NHS Choices

Staying indoors

If possible, stay indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50).  The following tips may also help to reduce your exposure to pollen.

  • keep windows and doors shut in your house.  If it gets too warm, close the curtains to keep out the sun and lower the temperature
  • Don’t keep fresh flowers in the house
  • Vacuum regularly
  • Dust with a wet cloth – will collect the dust and stop any pollen from being spread around
  • If possible, keep pets out of the house during the hay fever season
  • Don’t smoke or let other people smoke in your house – smoking irritates the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways making your symptoms worse
  • Avoid drying clothes outside – this will help stop pollen being brought into your home
Going outside

If you need to go outside or you’re travelling, the tips below may help to reduce your exposure to pollen.

  • Avoid cutting grass, playing or walking in grassy areas and camping – particularly in the early morning, evening and at night when the pollen count is at its highest
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes
  • Take a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body
  • Keep car windows closed – you can buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car
  • Rubbing a small amount of Vaseline inside your lower nostrils can help to prevent pollen from entering your nasal passage.

Stay safe in the sun >

It’s great to see the sun shining bright, and many of us have been enjoying a taste of summer – however, it’s important to remember that rising heat does bring health risks for some and  it’s important to practice sun safety and look out for others. The best way to enjoy the sun safely and protect your skin from sunburn is to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen.

Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer, and people who have had sunburn are more than twice as likely to get melanoma than those who have not. Learn more in this video featuring Dr Richard Sandford-Hill.

Sun safety tips

Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and it doesn’t just happen on holiday – you can burn in the UK, even when it’s cloudy. There is no safe way to get a tan, and a tan doesn’t protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.  

  • spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest
  • Cover up with loose clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
  • Take extra care with children – their skin is much more sensitive and children under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight
  • Use a sunscreen with a protection level of at least SPF15.  Use it generously and reapply regularly

Also, keep an eye out for changes to your skin, including:

  • A new mole, growth or lump
  • Any moles, freckles or patches of skin that change in size, shape or colour

Report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible.  Skin cancer is much easier to treat if it’s found early.

Using sunscreen properly

  • Make sure you put enough sunscreen on – two teaspoons if you’re covering your head, arms and neck or two tablespoons if you’re covering your entire body, while wearing a swimming costume.
  • Reapply regularly, even ‘once a day’ and ‘water resistant’ products
  • Use sunscreen together with shade and clothing
  • Don’t store sunscreens in very hot places
  • Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your sunscreen

Who’s at risk of sunburn

Everyone who’s exposed to UV light is at risk of getting sunburn, but some people are more vulnerable that others.  You should take extra care when out in the sun if you:

  • Have pale or white skin
  • Have freckles or red or fair hair
  • Tend to burn rather than tan
  • Have many moles
  • Have skin problems relating to a medical condition
  • Are in a hot country where the sun is particularly intense
  • Have a family history of skin cancer

If you have lots of moles or freckles, your risk of getting skin cancer is higher than average, so take extra care.

Dealing with sunburn

Sunburn is usually mild and short lived – you will usually fully heal within 7 days. It’s important to try to avoid being burnt because it can increase your risk of developing skin problems in later life, such as ageing (wrinkling) and skin cancer.

It can be easy to underestimate the strength of the sun when you’re outside. The wind and getting wet, such as going in and out of the sea, may cool your skin, so you don’t realise you’re getting burnt.

 If you experience sunburn, get out of the sun as soon as possible by heading indoors or into a shady area. 

  • Cool the skin by having a cold bath or shower, sponging it with cold water, or holding a cold flannel to it
  • Use lotions containing aloe vera to soothe and moisturise your skin
  • Apply over the counter hydrocortisone cream for a few days to help reduce  inflammation – speak to a pharmacist for advice
  •  Drink plenty of fluids to cool you down and prevent dehydration
  • Take painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, to relieve any pain (but don’t give aspirin to children under 16)
  • Try to avoid all sunlight, including through windows by covering up the affected areas of skin until fully healed

You should seek medical advice if you feel unwell or are concerned about your sunburn, particularly if you’re burnt over a large area or have any of the following symptoms:

    • blistering or swelling of the skin
    • chills
    • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4f) or above
    • dizziness, headaches and feeling sick

Staying well during a heatwave

Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long there are health risks.  The main risks posed by a heatwave are:

  • dehydration – not having enough water
  • overheating – which can make symptoms worse for people who are already having problems with their heart or breathing
  • heat exhaustion and heatstroke

A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:

  • Older people, especially those over 75
  • Babies and young children
  • People with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems
  • People with mobility problems – for example, people with Parkinson#s disease or who have had a stroke
  • People with serious mental health problems
  • People on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
  • People who misuse alcohol or drugs
  • People who are physically active – labourers or those doing sports

The following tips will help keep you keep cool and comfortable:

  • Avoid the heat – stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day)
  • Shut windows and pull down the shades during the day.  You can open the windows for ventilation when its cooler
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water
  • Drink cold drinks regularly, such as water and diluted fruit juice.  Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine (tea, coffee and cola) or drinks high in sugar
  • Listen to alerts on the radio, TV or soical media about keeping cool
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need
  • Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves

More information about staying safe in the sun  is available on NHS Choices. 

Dealing with asthma >

 

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.

It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also appear for the first time in adults.

There’s currently no cure for asthma, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it doesn’t have a significant impact on your life.

Learn more in this video featuring Dr Chetal Sheth.

What causes asthma? 

Asthma is caused by the inflammation (swelling) of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

The inflammation makes the breathing tubes highly sensitive, so they become temporarily narrow – this may occur randomly, or after exposure to a trigger. The tubes may also become clogged with sticky mucus.

Common triggers include:

  • Allergens – such as house dust mites, animal fur and pollens
  • Other irritants – such as cigarette smoke, strong smells, gases and cold air
  • Exercise
  • Chest infections

symptoms of asthma

The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person, and they usually come and go – but for some people they are more persistent.

The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • Breathlessness
  • A tight chest – which may feel like a band is tightening around it
  • coughing

Asthma symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse – this is known as an asthma attack.

Treatment of asthma

While there’s currently no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

Most asthma treatments are taken using an inhaler – a small device that delivers a spray or powder medicine to your breathing tubes as you breathe in.

The main treatments are:

  • Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers if possible
  • Reliever inhalers – inhalers used to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
  • Preventers inhalers – to help prevent symptoms and reduce the risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack

Taking your asthma medicines as prescribed and discussed with your GP or asthma nurse is the best way to prevent asthma symptoms and a potentially life threatening asthma attack – it’s important that you play your part in helping them to work by taking them in the right dose, in the right way, at the right time(s).

You will usually have drawn up a personal action plan with your doctor or asthma nurse. This will include information about your medicines, how to monitor your condition and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

How long does asthma last?

Asthma is a long term condition for many people – particularly if it first develops in adulthood.

In children, it sometimes disappears or improves during the teenage years – although it can return later in life.

Symptoms can usually be controlled with treatment and most people live normal active lives – some people with more severe asthma may have persistent problems.

Complications of asthma

Although asthma can normally be kept under control, it is still a serious condition that can cause a number of complications.

This is why it’s so important to follow your treatment plan and not ignore your symptoms if they get worse.

Badly controlled asthma can cause issues such as:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Underperformance or absence from work or school
  • Psychological problems – including stress, anxiety and depression
  • Disruption of your work and leisure because of unexpected visits to your GP or hospital
  • Lung infections – pneumonia
  • In children, delays in growth or puberty

When to get medical advice

If you think you have asthma, or your child has asthma, it’s very important to make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible so you can talk about your symptoms, go through your medical history and do some tests to see how your lungs are working.

More information about asthma is available of NHS Choices.

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