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Staying safe from Legionella

This handy information will help highlight what Legionella is, its health risks, and how you can keep your home safe from it.

Legionella is a form of bacteria commonly found in water. The bacteria multiply where temperatures are between 20 – 45°C and nutrients are available in the water. Below 20°C, the bacteria lie dormant and do not multiply, and they cannot survive in water temperatures above 60°C.

Inhaling droplets of water contaminated by Legionella can cause a form of  Pneumonia called Legionnaire’s Disease, which is uncommon but can be very serious and potentially fatal.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:

  • A cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • A high temperature
  • Flu-like symptoms

The home is one of the least common places to get Legionnaire’s Disease. You also won’t get Legionnaire’s Disease through drinking water or contact with an infected person, and not everyone who comes into contact with the bacteria will become ill.

You can get Legionnaire’s disease in places where infected water droplets can be breathed in. This includes:

  • Air conditioning systems
  • Humidifiers
  • Spas and hot tubs
  • Taps and showers that aren’t used often

You can’t usually get Legionnaire’s Disease from:

  • Drinking water that contains the bacteria
  • Other people with Legionnaire’s Disease
  • Outdoor water bodies like ponds, lakes, rivers, the sea, etc.

To reduce the risk, there are some simple but important steps you can take.

  • Ensure your hot water system remains hot. This includes ensuring your boiler thermostat is set to at least 60°C, and you do not turn hot water immersion tanks off for long periods of time.
  • Cold water is kept cold.
  • Your hot water system should be set to 60°C. Temperatures lower than this will allow Legionella bacteria to live and multiply. Please do not adjust your water thermostat on your boiler. If your hot water is not at the right temperature, or your cold water appears to be coming out too warm, contact us on 0300 123 2640 to report a repair.
  • Circulate the water in your home’s system regularly by running taps, flushing the toilet and running the bath or shower. In most households, this will happen on a daily basis anyway, but if you have been away from your house for a period of time (a week or more), or there is a water source (such as a tap or shower) that is rarely used, then you should ensure you run these at least weekly.
  • When flushing your water systems after a period of being away or the water source not being used, make sure you stay well away while the water is running – go into a different room, and run it for at least 5 minutes. Keep the toilet lid down when flushing after a period of no use.
  • Keep shower heads, hoses and taps clean and free from limescale and mould by descaling them every three months. Taps and shower heads with mould, grime and limescale can provide nutrients for Legionella.

If you have developed symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease as highlighted above, you should get in touch with your GP as soon as possible, or call NHS 24 on 111 if your breathing is difficult or your symptoms are severe.

You (or someone else if you are unable to) should also call us as soon as possible on 0300 123 2640, and we’ll urgently investigate and treat your water system to deal with the Legionella.