How To Manage Common Garden Hazards

Gardens are beautiful, serene places, designed to make you feel safe. To keep gardens this way, it is important to know the possible hazards you can come across and how to prevent them. These hazards are usually from chemicals, animals, garden tools, personal habits and plants themselves. Below are 9 common hazards and how to prevent them.

  1. Insect bites: crawling and flying insects are always found in a garden. Some are peaceful passersby while others are angry insects, seeking a retaliation from sharing their space. To protect yourself, wear appropriate shoes, choose clothing that covers your body up to your wrists. Beware of  scented cosmetics that could attract insects. You don’t want to be mistaken for a flower that needs pollination. When bitten by an insect, move to a safe area to avoid more bites, clean the bite area, apply ice to reduce pain and swelling, take an antihistamine to suppress allergic reactions and apply a hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion or baking soda to reduce itching.
  2. Skin irritation from chemicals: when mixing pesticides and other chemicals, wear gloves and handle them with care. Avoid mixing chemicals in a rush so as to avoid splashes and spills. Or preferably, consider using organic pesticides that contain non allergenic ingredients.When spills happen, it is important to flush the affected surface with water immediately following skin or eye contact with a chemical. This flushing should continue for 5-60 mins depending on the corrosiveness of the chemical. Remove any overlying clothing that may retain the chemical or prevent thorough washing of the skin. Further medical assistance should be sought if irritation is severe.
  3. Injuries from sharp tools: great care must be taken in handling tools like blades, knives, rakes, and sickles as they can pose a threat to your safety when improperly handled. Return these tools to the tool box immediately after use after a thorough cleaning and lubrication if needed. This prevents you and visitors from stumbling over them. When injured by a sharp tool, rinse the cut or wound with water and apply pressure with a clean cloth or sterile bandage, if the first bandage is soaked in blood, place another on top and keep applying pressure. Raise the injured body part to slow down the bleeding. When bleeding stops, cover the wound with a new, clean bandage. Remember to stay hydrated.
  4. Skin abrasion from thorny plants: plants have thorns to protect themselves from herbivores. You are not the enemy but sadly, the plant cannot differentiate you from its predator. Wearing gloves would assist greatly in preventing skin bruises. To manage a bruise, clean the surface of the bruise, apply cold compress and cover with penicillin ointment.
  5. Skin irritation from plant sap and exudates: avoid coming in contact with any plant saps if you are not familiar with those that can cause irritation or if you have a very sensitive skin. Plants like poison ivy, poison oak, sumac and Euphorbia can cause irritation ranging from redness, itching and even boils. Manage this skin irritation as in insect bite.
  6. Poisoning from ingesting plants: ensure that children are adequately supervised at the garden. Some plants smell nice or look good but should not be eaten. Seek immediate medical assistance when a poisonous plant has been ingested.
  7. Nasal irritation from dust and chemicals: wear nose guards when handling loose soil, raking during the dry season and when mixing vermiculite, as it may contain asbestos. Clean the nostril with a damp napkin if an irritant has been inhaled. Keep the head tilted in nose bleeds to reduce pressure. Seek urgent medical assistance if the bleeding does not stop.
  8. Backache from bending over: consider using raised beds or plant stands to grow your favorite plants.  Low stools or comfortable kneelers can be very helpful in preventing backache and muscle strains while weeding or pruning. Working in the garden is good exercise,  but it shouldn’t lead you to pain relief medications. If you feel some pain, gently massage the lower back with Shea butter or any soothing ointment.
  9. Sunburn and acid rains: in tropical climates, the sun is almost always shining. It is preferable to work during the early hours of the day or in the evenings to prevent direct exposure to sunlight. If you must work in the sunny hours, try using a hat. If it is raining, please wait till it stops. When sunburned, cool the skin, apply a moisturizer or Aloe vera gel or honey on the affected surface. Do not burst sunburn blisters, allow them to dry out. Use pain relief medication to assist with the discomfort. Treat acid irritated skin as in spilled chemicals.

It is imperative to teach your family and staff how to handle emergencies because these events are inevitable. With all the above measures put in place, extreme circumstances might occur that would require more than first aid. Seek immediate medical assistance if the following is observed:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
  • Dizziness, faintness or confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Wide and deep cuts
  • Nausea, cramps or vomiting
  • A child stung by a scorpion
  • Loss of consciousness

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