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NHS HIGHLAND: Balance needed between action and caution

By Dr Tim Allison

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Gardening is a seasonal activity for some people.
Gardening is a seasonal activity for some people.

The days are getting longer, and we are approaching summer, although sometimes it may not feel like that yet.

Flowers are appearing and some birds are returning to Scotland from thousands of miles to the south. We also have the opportunity to get out and about more in the better weather, although most likely not travelling as far as migratory birds.

Going out walking, cycling or gardening is good for our health and even more so if we are able to join with other people to do that. There are opportunities to walk with others and also garden with others.

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We may need to be cautious about a sudden increase in activity though, especially if we have a medical condition and it is usually best to have a gradual increase in activity rather than a sudden burst. We can build up to longer and more sustained exercise and even a small increase in what we do will be likely to improve our health.

This is the time of year when our thoughts may also turn to fixing things outside following winter damage and deterioration and there can be a rush to DIY. Again, we should exercise some caution in using tools and ladders and it is always good to do things with others. Not only can a friend or neighbour hold a ladder but time with other people helps all of us.

Another feature of the summer is a reduction in the number of people who get chest infections. One reason for this is that in the summer we spend less time indoors in rooms with limited ventilation and so there is less opportunity for infections to spread.

There is usually what is called a ‘flu season when influenza is more common. This happens during the winter and early spring and is why ‘flu vaccinations are scheduled for the autumn.

However, even during the late spring and the summer there is still a risk of chest infection.

We are continuing to see cases of influenza and we also need to remember that Covid has not disappeared. The Covid virus is still circulating but most people are protected because of immunity gained through vaccination or past infection.

Covid still presents a risk for people who are more vulnerable, for example those who are older or have a weakened immune system. That is why the Covid vaccination programme is continuing and why people who are more vulnerable are being invited to have another vaccination over the next few weeks. I would encourage all those who are invited to take up the offer.

There is always a balance in life to be struck between action and caution. This is true for activities outside as well as for protecting ourselves from infection.

I hope that we all can get active over the summer as much as we are able, but also take precautions for the risks such as Covid that are still around.

Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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