Getting out into the garden is a great way to unwind, de-stress, and also learn some new skills too. It’s also a great way to introduce kids to nature, and the world around them.
Whilst a relaxing endeavour most of the time, there are also a few dangers lurking in the garden too. This article offers tips and advice on common garden risks, hazards to be aware of, and how to ensure that if you do have any mishaps, you’re treating any cuts and grazes appropriately.
Garden equipment safety
When gardening, it’s likely you’ll be using a variety of different gardening equipment and tools including shovels, trowels and secateurs. It’s important to remain mindful and aware of the dangers when using tools in the garden.
A few things to remember when using equipment, including lawnmowers, include:
- Wearing long sleeves and trousers when dealing with thick or sharp foliage and to protect from debris or hot machine part burns e.g. when mowing the lawn
- Wear appropriate footwear that is sturdy, and also enclosed, particularly when digging or mowing the lawn
- Wear gloves when using any cutting tools to avoid cuts to the hands or fingers
Avoiding cuts and grazes in the garden
Whether doing the weeding, or planting new beds, there’s often a need to get stuck in, and handle the soil, plants, foliage - all of which carry their own risk of both minor and larger cuts and grazes.
It’s not uncommon for sharp stones or old pieces of metal or glass to make their way into soil, so it’s advisable to wear gloves when gardening to reduce the risk of cutting yourself on objects within soil, and also when pulling weeds.
Quite often plants can have barbed or spiky stems (to protect themselves) and whilst overall most will be harmless, these can also find their way into the surface of the skin on the hands causing pain or irritation, along with minor abrasions.
Wearing gloves will also help to avoid insect bites and help you keep a better grip, helping you to avoid wrist injuries.
Treating minor cuts and grazes in the garden
If you do happen to cut yourself in the garden, no matter how small, it’s important to take action right away.
This will help to ensure the area is bacteria free, provide an optimal healing environment, and speed up the wound healing process too.
Dealing with larger garden injuries
Whilst most gardening related injuries will be minor, it’s important to be prepared if you suffer a larger cut.
First and foremost it’s important to assess whether the wound needs further medical treatment at hospital, and if stitches are needed.
The following steps should be taken when dealing with larger or bleeding wounds:
- Wash your hands, or if being helped, make sure they have washed their hands first.
- Apply pressure to the wound using a non-stick sterile pad. A minor wound will stop bleeding in one to two minutes.
- If the bleeding continues, apply more sterile gauze and seek medical attention.
- If the bleeding stops, follow a wound care routine and make sure to clean the wound, protect it, and use a suitable dressing for larger wounds to give the best healing environment.
For more information on protecting and healing large wounds, read our large wound guide.
Avoiding muscle injuries when gardening
Whilst mostly a relaxing endeavour, there are also a few muscle injury risks to be aware of when gardening. If you’ve not done much other physical activity, it’s advised to do a gentle warm up before tackling big tasks like mowing the lawn, lifting slabs, pulling roots, or stretching to reach areas of the garden when pruning.
Other things to consider include:
- Remember to stand up and stretch every 10-15 minutes if you’re kneeling down to garden, this helps with blood flow and keeps you warmed up
- Avoid overstretching when pruning and cutting larger bushes or trees, as this can lead to both back, shoulder and wrist injuries
- Get help to move heavy objects like old tree roots, paving stones, slabs or large rocks to avoid back and shoulder injuries
Treating garden related muscle injuries
Often with muscle injuries you may not realise you’ve pulled something until a few hours or even days after you’ve been in the garden, so it's best to always keep in mind whether you're over-exerting to avoid injuries.
Either way, if you feel any sort of pain or muscular injury whilst gardening, it’s best to stop the current activity, and avoid any further pain or injury through over-exertion. It can also help to follow the principles of R.I.C.E - rest, ice, compress and elevate, to give muscles the best chance to recover and heal.
A common myth of back and other muscle pain is that rest will help, which in the short term is true, however longer term, low level activity is the best way to speed up healing by recalibrating your muscles and continuing to strengthen them over time. If you’re concerned, speak to a doctor or physio about the best treatment for you and your condition.
Insect bites and stings
Alongside plants and tools, it’s also good to be aware of other visitors to your garden, particularly in the spring and summer months.
The main insect to look out for are wasps or bees, which are more prone to stinging if they feel threatened. Other insects to watch out for include red ants in the spring and midges in the autumn.
There are a few actions you can take to minimise the risk of insect bites or stings:
- Wearing long sleeves and trousers when in the garden
- Wear insect repellent when out in the garden
- If you discover a nest of any kind, do not disturb it, and get an expert in to remove it
If you're stung or bitten by an insect, there are a few steps you can take to alleviate any pain, and ensure a proper healing process:
- Clean the insect bite or sting using a sterile spray like the Elastoplast Wound Spray
- Apply cream to itchy bites or take over-the-counter antihistamines
- For painful bites, take over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol if suitable. Always follow the directions on the label and correct dose