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Garden injuries are a major concern

Gardening is often described as a relaxing and beneficial hobby regardless of a person's age. While time outdoors in the garden can prove calming and enjoyable, there is a dark side to gardening as well. Namely the injuries that may result from various activities.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, emergency rooms in the United States treat more than 400,000 outdoor garden-tool-related injuries each year. Additionally, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand has issued warnings that caution gardeners about hand-related injuries.

Doctors from the British College of Osteopathic Medicine have also warned that pruning, mowing and weeding can be dangerous -- even comparable to competitive sports. People don't often associate a garden with danger, but this line of thinking can be dangerous in itself.

Hand injuries

Cuts and even finger amputations may result from unfamiliarity with pruning tools, such as hedge clippers or handheld pruners. The design of these tools is so they'll be able to cut through small to moderately sized branches, which means it would not be too difficult for a pruner to snap through a finger bone. Injuries with these tools often occur when the gardener is distracted or the tool slips during use.

Pruners may also exacerbate conditions of carpal tunnel syndrome, usually caused by repetitive hand movements, such as typing or repetitious work. The ASSH says that prolonged, repetitive motions, such as weeding or pruning, can cause skin, tendon or nerve irritation. Rotate tasks every 15 minutes to give certain areas of the body a break.

The use of battery-powered and ergonomically designed hand tools can alleviate pain and may prevent some injuries. Power tools require less effort for cutting, which may reduce tool slippage or misuse.

Bites and bruises

Infection is another injury that people may not associate with gardening. Gardeners often come in contact with many different types of organic matter when gardening. Bacteria, fungi, and insects, as well as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, may be found in soil. Failing to protect hands, especially those with a small abrasion or cut in the skin, enables these substances to potentially enter the body and bloodstream, and infections or rashes may result.

Contact with poisonous insects is another concern. Some ants have irritating bites. There are many types of spiders that can be poisonous or inflict a painful bite. Scorpions in dry climates can sting when uncovered in burrows.

Wearing gloves, particularly leather ones, can offer protection against thorny objects, insect bites, chemicals, and other skin irritants found in the soil.

Sun damage

Spending time outdoors subjects a person to UV exposure each and every time. Gardening unprotected can mean a bad case of sunburn and the potential to develop skin cancer at a later time.

Whenever spending time outdoors pruning or just admiring the landscape, gardeners should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Try to do the majority of yard work in the early morning or early evening when the sun's rays are the least harmful.

Additional injuries

Many gardeners fail to ease back into garden activities after the winter respite. Should a gardener dive right into strenuous gardening tasks, injuries may ensue. Many hospitals see an influx of back-related injuries, heart attacks, muscle strains, and lacerations come the first stretch of warm weather.

Just like an athlete wouldn't start the new season off right in a professional game, so shouldn't a gardener start strenuous activities without gradually warming up to them.

Gardening can be quite an enjoyable activity but not if a person is sidelined by an injury. Use caution and common sense whenever landscaping.