Skip to content
Logo for small screens

Hot weather

What are the risks?

Heat can affect anyone, and conditions related to heat waves such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion can have serious consequences if not quickly treated. In addition, being exposed to the sun for too long can cause painful sunburn.


More time spent outside can increase the chances of developing illness or disease. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of the potentially fatal Legionella longbeachae bacteria, present in some potting composts, amongst gardeners in Scotland after the compost dust was inhaled or ingested. Tick bites can carry Lyme Disease, and other illnesses. Ingesting blue-green algae from water sources, animal-borne diseases from visiting petting zoos, and food poisoning from eating under-cooked food at BBQs can also make you (or your pets) very ill.


What can I do?

  • Be prepared for the weather, whatever it might be. Get your forecast online or download the Met Office free weather forecast app direct to your mobile phone.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • If you have vulnerable neighbours or relatives who may be at risk during a heatwave, try to visit them daily.


At home

  • Maintain good hygiene practice in the garden, wear gardening gloves, and wash hands and other exposed skin carefully after gardening
  • Try to keep your house cool, closing blinds or curtains can help.
  • At night, keep your sleeping area well ventilated. Night cooling is important as it allows the body to recuperate.
  • Try to stay cool by taking cool showers or baths


Out and about

  • Do not leave children or animals in parked cars. Even on cool days, strong sunshine can make car interiors very hot.
  • You can avoid sun damage to your skin by avoiding  the sun between 11am and 3pm; if you have to go out stay in the shade; if outdoors, protect your skin - use sunscreen (of at least Factor 15) and; wear a hat, sunglasses and light coloured loose fitting clothes (preferably cotton).
  • Avoid too much exercise, which can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and watch for signs of heat stress - an early sign is fatigue.
  • Avoid pollution, especially if you suffer from a breathing or heart condition. You may benefit by registering with the free Know and Respond Scotland service. This provides text message alerts when the air quality is poor, accompanied by targeted health advice.
  • If you want to go swimming, it is best to go to a properly-supervised site, such as a beach, lido or swimming pool.
  • Avoid open water that appears green, blue-green or greenish brown, or where there are warning notices for blue-green algae posted, and do not let dogs swim there.
  • Following good hand hygiene precautions and reducing risks from rural visits should prevent infections from contaminated food or animals


Where can I find out more?

Following Health Protection Scotland's gardening hygiene advice is recommended. 


You can find advice from Scottish Water about saving water in the garden.


Read Health Protection Scotland's factsheet: What do I need to know about ticks and tick borne diseases?


The Fit For Travel site provides information for people travelling abroad and has general advice on a range of health and travel related topic including: