- Author: Kathy Low
A few weeks ago when I was walking back from my mailbox I freaked out (technically I froze out of fear) when a rattlesnake slithered across my driveway a couple of feet in front of me. Thankfully I always keep my phone with me when I step out of the house in case of an accident or emergency. When I got safely back into the house, I started thinking about garden safety. In researching the topic, the experts recommend the following actions to keep you safe and healthy while gardening.
1. Know your physical limitations. When you become fatigued, take a rest. If you are taking medications that make you drowsy, don't climb ladders, operate electric gardening equipment, or do anything that could increase your risk of injury. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, have chest pain, or experience heat-related illness, call 911.
2. If you are gardening in hot weather, stay hydrated, take plenty of breaks, and pay attention to signs of heat illness. Signs of heat illness can include a headache, nausea, dizziness, a super high body temperature, and confusion. And if gardening in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
3. Get vaccinated for tetanus. Tetanus lives in the soil and enters your body through cuts in your skin. You are constantly exposed to sharp objects, ranging from sharp plant leaves to sharp gardening tools that can break your skin, exposing you to tetanus.
4. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Repetitive motions like digging, trimming hedges and raking could cause tendon or nerve irritation, so these motions should be rotated every fifteen minutes with a brief rest in between.
5. Pay attention to the position of your wrist. You lose up to 25% of your grip strength if your wrist is bent. When your wrist is in a relaxed or neutral position you'll get maximum grip strength.
6. Be aware of and alert for harmful garden pests. These pests range from poisonous spiders to poisonous snakes.
7. Wear protective clothing when gardening. This includes gardening gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into your socks, or insect repellent containing DEET.
If using power garden tools, be sure to wear safety goggles and protective shoes.
8. When using garden chemicals, be sure to follow the instructions. Be sure to heed the instructions for proper handling and storage of the chemicals.
You can find more gardening health and safety tips on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/family/gardening/index.htm, and on the gardening safety page of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, at www.assg.org/handcare/hand-safety/gardening.