Gardening exposes you to a number of hazards and can take a toll on your entire body. Look after yourself this summer, not just your plants. Here are some tips:
· Slip, slop, slap – the sun can be fierce, even on cloudy days. Try to wear long clothing which offers more protection. Make sure you apply sunscreen regularly. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Use a lip balm with an SPF
· Stay hydrated – drink water regularly throughout the day. I like to keep a jug filled with water and a glass in the garage, so it’s easily accessible while I’m working in the garden
· Protect yourself from insects – use a good insect repellent (the one which I’ve found to be most effective is Bush Man) to prevent mosquitoes from biting you. I sometimes forget to apply insect repellent and recently had to see my GP to get some antibiotics because of some bites that had become discoloured and infected.
· Ensure your vaccinations are up to date – gardening exposes you to soil, rusty nails and so on. In particular, make sure you have been vaccinated against tetanus. I do realise that there is a new trend against immunisation which didn’t really exist when I was growing up (not that my mother, a retired nurse who is as old school as they come, would have bought into it). Do what you feel comfortable with but be sure to research the risks and make an informed decision about inoculation
· Take care of your feet – make sure you wear protective footwear around the garden. This is particularly important for diabetics as any cuts can easily become infected and in extreme cases, lead to amputation. I used to wander around the garden wearing jandals while harvesting, until I got a cut on my toe. I was very lucky that it healed quickly but after that, I started wearing gumboots all the time, even in summer. For extra protection, I wear thick socks, too.
· Take care of your hands – I recommend wearing gloves while gardening. I have a few different types. I use disposable surgical gloves for anything fiddly, such as sowing seeds and potting up seedlings. I use thicker gloves for pruning my roses, as they offer more protection. At the end of every day, use a brush to remove dirt underneath the finger nails. I recently had an issue with some dirt getting trapped deep underneath a fingernail when I was bandicooting some potatoes. It was very painful and took some time to remove (I soaked the finger in Dettol and had to use a toothpick to get it out. Ouch!). At the time, I was only wearing thin disposable gloves but I have since learnt to wear thicker gardening gloves over the top when harvesting potatoes as I like to remove as many as I can with my hands to avoid them being speared by the garden fork
· Pamper your hands – gardening can leave your hands quite dry. Invest in a nice hand cream to use before you go to bed every night
· Pamper your feet – being on your feet around the garden all day can leave your feet worse for wear. Treat yourself to a nice foot soak, scrub and cream which you can use after a hard day in the garden
· Wash produce before consumption – don’t eat things straight from the garden as tempting as they may look (that includes peas and strawberries!). You never know what was sitting on them before, which might cause you or other members of your family to fall ill
· Use protection when spraying – use a mask and goggles when using sprays in the garden
· Beware legionnaires disease – use a mask when using compost and potting mix. This is especially important when opening fresh bags.
· Take it easy – gardening can cause repetitive strain. I continually suffer from tight forearms and traps, weak wrists and lower back pain. Take care when lifting heavy objects. See a physio for injuries. Using a wheat bag on sore areas can help. Take regular breaks when out in the garden. Have days off so the body has time to recover and repair.
· Take care when operating machinery – for example, the lawn mower, chainsaw, weed eater, electronic pruner. They can be dangerous. Protect hearing by wearing ear muffs
Does anyone have any other tips on how to stay safe in the garden this summer?
The photo is of our tomatoes, which I planted over Labour Weekend.