|By Tanise Edwards, M.D.
(Click for author bios in About us)
Beautifying a yard or growing a vegetable patch can be a rewarding labor of love — and good exercise, too!
But, whether you’re in it for joy or otherwise — well, the lawn won’t mow itself — safety’s worth cultivating, too. Keep these seven smart strategies in mind:
1. Outfit yourself. Shorts and sandals are fine for lounging on the deck. But, when it comes time to work, choose pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. And, be sure to wear eye and ear protection when using mowers or other outdoor machinery.
You’re not decked out just yet. You also need gloves to help guard against blisters and cuts — and a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection. In fact, before you even head outdoors, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen. A quick hands-on tip: Keep extra sunscreen with your gardening tools. That way you can reapply it as needed — without tracking muddy feet indoors!
2. Don’t mow over safety. Always respect the power in power equipment. Read — and heed — all the instructions and precautions. Take your time, too. For example, before cutting the grass, check for potential mower missiles — such as rocks, sticks or toys. Also, be sure that children and pets are not in the yard when you’re mowing.
3. Rise and shine. Time your yard work for the cooler hours of the day — in the morning or evening. This can help you avoid overheating. It also reduces your exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays.
And, stay hydrated — make sure you have drinking water handy. If the temperature rises, don’t overexert yourself. Rest in the shade, play in the sprinkler — or call it a day.
4. Dodge mosquitoes and ticks. To help defend against infection-causing pests, you can apply an insect repellent that contains DEET to clothing and exposed skin. Follow the label instructions closely.* It can also help to tuck your pants into your socks and wear a long-sleeved shirt.
5. Step up safely. Are you up for trimming a tall hedge or cleaning the gutters? Plant your ladder on firm, level ground. Make sure it’s well away from any power lines. If you can’t reach without leaning to one side, climb down and move the ladder closer.
It’s best not to use a ladder if you tire easily or are taking medications that make you dizzy or drowsy.
6. Avoid a moving violation. Before you boost those bags of yard waste, remember good form. Bend at the knees and lift with your legs — not your back — keeping your abdominal muscles tight. For heavy loads, use a wheelbarrow or dolly.
7. Check your tetanus protection. The bacterium that causes tetanus thrives in soil. And, it can get in scrapes or cuts on the skin. To avoid infection, you need to be up-to-date on your tetanus vaccine. Talk with your doctor about whether you need a booster shot.
For safety’s sake
If you have a health condition or injury or have been inactive, talk with your doctor about what outdoor activities are OK for you.
*The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that DEET not be used on infants younger than age 2 months. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, talk with your doctor before using any insect repellent.