Gardening is a favorite pastime of millions of Americans. Not only is it a good way to keep our bodies active, gardening can help us keep our minds and emotions in check as well. When we partake in activities that we enjoy doing, our body release chemicals into our bloodstream called endorphins. These chemicals have positive effects on our moods and have shown to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure. As an added bonus, the fresh air and sunshine, in moderation, also provide our bodies with much needed fresh oxygen and Vitamin D, which sunlight helps the body produce. Although there are many beneficial things about gardening, there are also some caveats that families and caregivers of the elderly should be aware of. Here are a few of the ways that gardening can also pose as a health hazard for who partake in it regularly.

Sun Damage

While limited exposure to sunlight is good for you, prolonged exposure can put you at risk for painful burning and skin cancers. This risk is often greater in the elderly population because of sensitive skin issues. Before being exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time, such as while gardening, a sunblock with an SPF of 45 or greater should be applied to all exposed areas of the skin.

Insect Stings

Insect stings are a common nuisance among avid gardeners. However, some insect stings that only produce a local, minor reaction on the skin in some people pose life threatening consequences for others. People who are allergic to insect bites can suffer from a serious reaction called anaphylaxis shock once they have been bitten. This is a severe and dangerous reaction to an insect bite’s trigger in which the air passages in the body begin to swell and close and the symptoms begin within minutes of being stung.

Hand and Body Injuries

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently announced that there are an estimated 400,000 garden tool related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms. in the US each year. Cuts and sprains were the most common injuries, but other severe injuries, such as accidental amputations, have been reported. Further, the repetitive motion often required when using garden tools can be especially hard on the joints which, in the elderly population, are generally already afflicted by arthritis. Wearing protective leather gloves at all times can prevent some of these injuries from occurring. Additionally, wearing proper and protective footwear – such as boots – while performing gardening tasks can also greatly reduce the risk of self-inflicted injury.

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