Staying safe in the garden

Cherry blossoms, daffodils, daylight savings. Spring is officially here! For many of us, the warmer weather and longer days means getting back into the garden. Often neglected over winter, our backyard can become our summer haven – planting flowers, sowing seeds, growing our own fruit and vegetables.

Spending time in the garden is a great way to connect with nature, but there are a few risks to think about.

Here are our top tips for staying safe in the garden this summer:

1. Protect against Legionella

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by an organism that lives in moist conditions and can cause a type of pneumonia. Legionella can be found in compost, potting mix, soil and mulches and you can catch it by breathing in airborne particles.

Protect yourself by wearing a face mask and gloves, open bags away from your face, work in a well-ventilated area and wash your hands when you’re finished.

See your doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms after working in the garden. Learn more about Legionnaires’ disease.

2. Protect against tetanus 

Tetanus is caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. These bacteria are commonly found in soil and the manure of animals such as horses and cows and can enter your body through a wound. Once in your body, the bacteria can quickly multiply and release a toxin, affecting your nerves, causing symptoms such as muscle stiffness and spasms.

Keep cuts and scratches covered and stay up-to-date with tetanus vaccinations. Learn more about tetanus.

3. Take care using chemicals

Use and store chemicals according to the instructions and keep out of reach of children. Try to buy only the amount you need and make sure you dispose of them correctly (check with your local council).

Contact the New Zealand National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 if you’re concerned you or a family member has ingested a chemical.

4. Watch out for insects

Bee, wasp and spider bites usually only cause minor irritation to most people. Wear gloves to protect against bites. Look out for the tell-tale sign of the black garden tunnel-web spider lurking in your garden with its thick, white, sheet-like web.

Learn more about bites and stings.

5. Stay safe using garden machinery

Make sure you know how to use machinery, such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, hedge trimmers and wood chippers correctly. Keep them in good working order, keep children away while in use and wear the appropriate protective equipment.

6. Stay sunsmart

Slip, slop, slap and wrap. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, so remember to slip on a shirt or sun-protective clothing, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on sunglasses.

Try to avoid being out in the sun when the UV radiation from the sun is the highest, usually between 10am–4pm during daylight saving months.

Learn more about sun safety.

Learn more

Safer and healthier gardening Health Ed

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Last reviewed: 02 Oct 2018