In this blog, Public Health Scotland's (PHS) Director of Public Health Science, Dr Nick Phin, shares some top tips to help you stay safe and well this spring.

The longer days, and hopefully some better weather, provide us that extra opportunity to spend more time outdoors, which can improve our physical and mental health. There are things we can do to make the most of our time outdoors, whether in Scotland or further afield.

Getting active

Physical activity is an important way of maintaining good health and wellbeing, and being physically active outdoors is even more beneficial. There are so many ways to be more active outdoors for example, going for walk (as briskly or as leisurely as you like), playing with the kids or friends in a park or at the beach, or gardening. For something more energetic, running, cycling or outdoor swimming with friends (see below for safety guidance) are good options. The spring and summer months are ideal for this – just don’t forget the suncream and some water.
Being active outdoors can also help to connect with others which is important for our mental health. Leaving the car at home for those short trips to local shops, to visit nearby friends and family, or for your commute all helps.


Being in the countryside can improve feelings of wellbeing, whether taking a break from all the busyness of the modern world, having a bit of quiet time to yourself, or sitting out chatting with friends – being outdoors can be relaxing and restorative.

Being bug and germ aware while exploring the outdoors

Tick avoidance and removal

In Scotland, a small proportion of ticks may be carrying germs that cause illnesses like Lyme disease.

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that can be found on bushes and undergrowth in Scotland’s countryside, and parks from spring through summer and well into autumn. Ticks feed on blood and attach themselves to any bare skin in order to take a blood meal. It’s when they are feeding that they can pass germs on to people.

Being tick aware is all about avoiding being bitten by ticks and removing any ticks that do bite as quickly as possible.

To avoid being bitten by ticks, wear long trousers and long sleeves when in outdoor green spaces. Using insect repellents also helps.

After spending time outdoors, it’s important to check for ticks and if you do discover a tick attached to you or someone who you’re with, you should remove them quickly. There are specially designed tick removal tools that should be used when removing ticks. Removing them quickly greatly reduces the likelihood that they can pass any infections on to you.

Hand washing

A number of germs, such as Cryptosporidium and E.coli are commonly carried by farm animals, so it’s really important to wash hands thoroughly before eating or drinking and after contact with animals or the places where they’re kept. This is particularly important when visiting petting farms, feeding lambs etc.

As wipes and hand sanitisers aren’t 100% effective against all germs, this is particularly so with Cryptosporidium, the best way of protecting yourself is by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This should be done before eating, drinking or doing anything else that brings your hands into contact with your mouth.

I would also encourage parents and those looking after young children to supervise them while they are washing their hands to ensure they do so properly.

This simple video explains how to wash your hands properly.


Washing your hands immediately after spending time in the garden is particularly important too.

Certain strains of the Legionella bacteria that can cause an uncommon pneumonia, can be found in damp potting compost or mud. Gardeners are encouraged to avoid storing compost in warm places like a greenhouse, and to keep it cool and dry.

It is also advisable to open compost outdoors, ensuring you don’t lean directly over the bag when doing so, and practice good hand hygiene in relation to gardening, including wearing gloves.

Travel abroad

Many of us will be planning trips abroad over the coming months and it is important to consider how best to stay healthy and avoid illness before you travel.

It is essential to check if the country you are travelling to requires vaccinations for any diseases, or if preventative malaria treatment is advised. There has been global increase in the number of cases of measles and so ensuring that you are up to date with the MMR vaccine is important at this time. It’s also important to consider any health conditions you or your fellow travellers may have, what medications you need to take with you and what additional precautions should be taken to make travel as safe as possible. The FitForTravel website contains general advice and information on travel health, as well as country specific risks.

If appropriate you can arrange a travel health risk assessment via your local heath board.

Further information

More information on the positive impact that greenspaces can have on physical and mental health: Greenspace and Health and Nature Scot Natural Health Service.

Information on staying active is available on NHS Inform: Keeping active | NHS inform

Information on some of the risks and the steps you can take to swim as safely as possible: Wild swimming: how to swim safely in Scotland's outdoor water - Publications - Public Health Scotland

More information about ticks, including prevention and removal, and Lyme Disease is available on the NHS Inform website.

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad: Home - Fit for Travel

While everyone in Scotland is encouraged to take a daily supplement on Vitamin D during the winter months, there are some groups of people who should take a daily supplement all year round. More information about Vitamin D supplements is available on Food Standards Scotland’s website.

This spring, COVID-19 vaccinations are being offered to those who are eligible. More information is available on NHS Inform: COVID-19 vaccination programme

Last updated: 22 May 2024