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Health and Safety Tips for Gardeners

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 3-Mar-2008

Spring weather and gardening season are just around the corner.  While gardening can improve your sense of well-being and promote physical health, staying safe while working outdoors is still important.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 67,000 U.S. consumers visited emergency rooms due to injuries from push mowers, and 14,600 were injured by garden tractors in 2004 alone.  The agency offers the following tips to help make your gardening season safe and enjoyable: 

"Dress to protect.

Gear up to protect yourself from lawn and garden chemicals, heavy equipment, insects, and the sun.

  • Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants when using lawn mowers and other machinery.
  • Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.
  • Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations and cuts.
  • To protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks, use insect repellent containing DEET. Wear clothing treated with permethrin, long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked in your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots since ticks are usually located close to the ground.
  • Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades, and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to lower your risk for sun burn and skin cancer.

Put safety first.

Limit distractions, use chemicals and equipment properly, and be aware of hazards to lower your risk for injury.

  • Follow instructions and warning labels on chemicals and equipment.
  • Make sure equipment is working properly.
  • Sharpen tools carefully.
  • Keep harmful chemicals, tools, and equipment out of children’s reach.

Watch out for heat-related illness.

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Monitor your activities and time in the sun to lower your risk for heat-related illness.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replace lost fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, especially in the heat. These actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Take breaks often. Try to rest in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.
  • Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including extremely high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.
  • Watch people who are at higher risk for heat-related illness, including infants and children up to four years of age; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; people who push themselves too hard during work or exercise; and people who are physically ill or who take certain medications (i.e. for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation).
  • Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized.

Know your limitations.

Talk to your health care provider if you have physical, mental, or environmental concerns that may impair your ability to work in the garden safely.

  • If you have arthritis, use tools that are easy to grasp and that fit your ability. Research shows that moderate physical activity three or more days a week can give you more energy and can help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness.
  • If you are taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don’t operate machinery, climb ladders, or do activities that may increase your risk for injury.
  • Listen to your body. Monitor your level of fatigue, heart rate, and physical discomfort.
  • Call 911 if you experience warning signs of a heart attack (sweating, chest and arm pain, dizziness, and/or lightheadedness) or heat-related illness.

Enjoy the benefits of physical activity.

Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Research shows that active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.

  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most, preferably all, days of the week. You can burn 150 calories by gardening (standing) for approximately 30-45 minutes.
  • If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.
  • Vary your gardening activities to keep your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.

Get vaccinated.

Vaccinations can prevent many diseases and save lives. All adults should get a tetanus vaccination every 10 years. Tetanus lives in the soil and enters the body through breaks in the skin. Because gardeners use sharp tools, dig in the dirt, and handle plants with sharp points, they are particularly prone to tetanus infections.

  • Before you start gardening this season, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date.
  • Ask your health care provider if you need any other vaccinations."

Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-759-6699. 

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