Thorns. Brambles. Stickers. Sharp sticks and stones. Sunburn. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Ticks. Gardeners face a whole range of minor but miserable hazards, but fortunately, it’s easy to avoid injury and discomfort if you take a few simple precautions.
First, wear protective clothing. Jeans or other long pants, sturdy shoes or boots, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat to protect your head, face, and neck from UV damage are basic gardening wear. If it’s hot out, choose a lightweight shirt and a straw or cotton hat with good ventilation. Remember that even a hat won’t provide complete protection, so use sunscreen and don’t forget your UV-blocking sunglasses.
Gloves are the gardener’s ally, protecting hands from cuts, scrapes, and rash-inducing plants like poison ivy. Choose specially coated “rose gloves” or “thorn-proof gloves” if you know you’ll be working around plants with thorns or spines.
Those long pants and sleeves are a good defense against both poison ivy and the like, and ticks. But you still need to take a commonsense approach: Check both your clothing and your skin for ticks when you come in after a gardening session, and wash your hands with a poison-ivy oil remover such as Tecnu before you rub your eyes or touch bare skin.
Preventing heatstroke and dehydration: Overheating is a danger whenever you exercise 264in hot, humid weather, and hot weather makes dehydration an issue as well. Using good sense is the best prevention for both hazards. Take a chilled bottle of water to the garden with you, and remember to pause and drink frequently. You can also hold the cold bottle against your neck and forehead to cool off fast, or pour some of the chilled water onto a bandanna and tie it around your neck.
When it’s hot out, do your gardening early in the day and in the evening, when the temperatures start to drop. Avoid the peak heat hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wear a hat to keep the sun off your head, and make yourself take breaks.
First aid: Carrying a few sizes and shapes of adhesive bandages and some analgesic/antiseptic swabs or pads in your pocket is always a smart idea. After all, gardening is a contact sport! With just these items on hand, you can immediately clean and bind up minor cuts, punctures, and scrapes.
What about bites and stings? Unless you happen on a nest of yellow jackets or ants, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be bitten or stung by an insect or spider. Ant bites are aggravating, but unless you live in areas with fire ants (in which case you already know to watch out for nests), they’re more of an aggravation than anything else.
A bee or wasp sting hurts. Pull or scrape out the stinger if it’s a bee sting, and whether it’s a bee or wasp sting, put a paste of baking soda and water on the site of the sting.
If you’re seriously allergic to bee and/or wasp stings, take every precaution and always carry a bee sting kit, which usually contains an antihistamine pill and an adrenaline or epinephrine injection to counter the allergic reaction. Talk to your doctor and make sure you know how to use the kit before you end up in a situation where you need it.