5 gardening hazards you should watch out for

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Five health and safety hazards when gardening:

Back problems

Gardening can strain your back or damage your spine. This happens when you spend long hours bent over tilling the soil and carry heavy gardening materials. To prevent back problems:

  • Use a portable stool – This will protect your spine, knees and joints when you’re working close to the ground.
  • Get a wheelbarrow – Use this to move heavy things around the garden. Ask for help when loading heavy things or divide them into smaller, lighter loads. Bend your knees when lifting anything heavy.
  • Take breaks – Don’t work for long periods of time. You will have muscle and back pain later on. Get up and stretch every 30-40 minutes. Drink water, stay in the shade and rest.
  • Wear proper shoes – Wear shoes that have traction. They should be secure on your feet and have cushioning and arch support. Don’t wear sandals or go barefoot. You can slip and fall. This can injure your back.

Sun burn and heat exhaustion

Staying out under the sun for a long time is bad for your skin. You should:

  • Cover areas like the back of your neck and your face.
  • Use sunscreen – Use lotion with SPF 30+ before gardening. You will sweat out the lotion so re-apply every two hours.
  • Get adequate cover – Put on a hat, long-sleeved shirt and shades.
  • Stay in the shade – Take frequent breaks under the shade. Use an umbrella when the sun is strong.

The heat can also cause a sun stroke. To prevent this, drink lots of water or cold drinks. But don’t drink alcohol, coffee or other drinks with caffeine. These take away water from the body and cause dehydration.

Insect bites

Insects and bugs may be in the soil or plants. Be careful and avoid ticks. They can carry infections such as Lyme disease. To protect yourself from ticks:

Poisonous chemicals

Do you want to use pesticides and fertilizers in your garden? Ask an expert at the gardening centre before using them. You can also choose organic mulches and fertilizers which are safer. Always follow instructions and warning labels on gardening products. Keep pets and children away from poisonous materials.

Cuts and scrapes

Sharp gardening tools, thorny plants, rocks and soil debris can scratch you. Wear thick gloves to protect your hands and arms. Consider getting a tetanus vaccine. It should be updated every 10 years.
 
Article updated April 28, 2020.
 
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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