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Yard work

Six tips to keep yard work safe

Don’t let yard work become a pain in the neck. Whether you’re an avid gardener or dread mowing the grass, you are susceptible to outdoor injury, including:

  • Back injuries from heavy lifting
  • Strained muscles from planting or raking
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis from pruning hedges with heavy sheers
  • Lower back pain from weeding

Here are six tips from April Artis, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont, to ensure yard work does not become a health hazard.

1. Prevent overuse injury

You may engage muscles during yard work that you don’t use on a daily basis. Take a few minutes to stretch and warm up before you grab the pruning shears or rake. As you work, try to change tasks every 30 minutes or so to avoid a repetitive-use injury.

2. Lift properly

When lifting anything, bend from the hips and knees, not the back. If you are moving material from one place to another, use a cart or wheelbarrow to avoid straining your back.

3. Wear gloves and protective clothing

Not only do gloves improve your grip on tools, but they also provide protection from splinters, debris and poison ivy.

“Leaves of three, let them be,” Dr. Artis says. “Poison ivy is an extremely common condition that can be minimized by wearing lightweight long sleeves, pants and gloves. It is also wise to shower immediately following any exposure to poison ivy. Soap helps wash away the oils before they have a chance to create a full-blown episode of intense itching.”

4. Stay hydrated

When it is warm outside, it is easy to become dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before and during yard work. Take a break and sit in the shade if you start to feel lightheaded.

“Many people spend hours working in the yard without taking a break to refuel,” she says. “This can lead to lightheadedness and dehydration, which should be taken seriously, especially for seniors who can end up in a doctor’s office for something that could have been easily avoided.”

5. Wear sunscreen

Don’t be deceived by a cloudy day. UV rays come through the clouds the same as when it is sunny out, so sunscreen is vital when you spend prolonged time outdoors. Dr. Artis recommends using zinc- or titanium-based physical sunscreens versus chemical sunscreens that penetrate your skin. She also reminds gardeners to apply SPF to the neck area, which is easily neglected. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also help protect the neck and face.

6. Nix pesky bug bites

Mosquitos thrive in damp areas, so empty anything in your yard that contains standing water, such as gutters, pet water dishes, planters, buckets, pool covers, old tires or birdbaths.

Protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases, like West Nile Virus, by wearing light colored clothing, long sleeves, pants and socks, and an insect repellant that contains DEET when you’re working outdoors. Once your yard work is complete, scan your body for ticks – particularly in your hair – and shower to remove the insect repellant. 

By taking these precautions, you can have a beautiful yard and get some exercise without risking your health.

“Yard work is a great form of exercise,” says Dr. Artis. “It is something people of all ages can participate in, and can even be a fun family activity. So don’t let yard work injuries get in the way.”

For additional healthy lifestyle tips, visit Living Better’s Health & Wellness page.

Dr. Artis practices at Piedmont Physicians Roswell Road IM, located at 4890 Roswell Road, Suite 250, Atlanta, GA 30342. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Artis or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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