Are you a seasoned green thumb who knows their plants by name (and also sings to them)? Or a first time gardener dreaming of bringing a lush landscape to life this summer? Whether you are a seasoned gardening pro or a newbie, watch out for these five health and safety hazards when gardening:
Hours bent over tilling the soil or carrying heavy bags of mulch and other gardening materials can strain your back or cause damage to your spine. To prevent back problems, remember to:
- use a portable garden or kneeling stool – this can protect your spine, knees and joints when you’re working close to the ground.
- get a wheelbarrow – use this when moving heavy things around the garden. Remember to ask for help if you need to load heavy things on your wheelbarrow, otherwise, divide the load into smaller, more manageable chunks. Load heavy things the right way by bending your knees before lifting.
- take breaks – when you’re enjoying gardening, it’s very easy to over exert yourself. This is can lead to intense muscle and back pain later on. Doctors recommend getting up and stretching every 30-40 minutes. Drink some water, stay in the shade and let your muscles recover.
- wear proper shoes – wear shoes that have traction, are secure on your feet and have cushioning and arch support. If the ground is slippery, wearing sandals or going barefoot can lead to a bad spill that can cause injury especially if you land on your back.
Sun burn and heat exhaustion
Extended sun exposure can be bad for your skin, especially on the back of your neck or on your face. The heat can also lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion if you are not careful. To beat the heat:
- use sunscreen – don’t forget to wear sunscreen before you start gardening. SPF 30+ is recommended. You may need to re-apply every two hours.
- get adequate cover – put on a hat, long sleeved shirt and shades if you plan to garden for extended periods.
- stay in the shade when you can. On the days when the sun is really intense, use an umbrella.
- stay hydrated. Drink lots of water or other cold beverages but stay away from alcohol and caffeine. These are diuretic and can cause dehydration.
Tilling the soil and working with plants can expose you to nasty bugs. Especially avoid ticks which can be carriers of infections (among them Lyme disease). Prevent bites by using insect repellent and covering your skin. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear a hat. Before going inside the house, check yourself (read Tick season in Manitoba: How to protect yourself from bites for more tips on preventing tick bites).
Be careful about using pesticides and fertilizers. Ask advice from an expert at your local gardening centre before using chemicals. You may opt to stick to organic mulches and fertilizers. If you do use chemicals for the garden, follow instructions and warning labels strictly. Remember to keep pets and children away from them.
Accidental cuts and scrapes
Cuts and scrapes can be caused by sharp gardening tools, thorny plants, rocks and other soil debris. Always wear thick gloves when gardening to protect your hands and arms. Consider updating your tetanus vaccine (recommended every 10 years).
Sources: 10 tips for gardening with a bad back, Sirena Rubinoff, Networx.com; 8 hidden dangers of gardening, Amanda Hawkins, Good Housekeeping.com; Heat stroke vs. heat exhaustion, My healthy feeling; and Gardening health and safety tips, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
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