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All too often, I pick up a gardening magazine and see an article illustrated with someone’s bare hands holding soil or potting mix.
Potentially fatal, legionellosis or legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that live in potting mix, compost, soil, mud and water systems, among them spa pools.
Flu-like symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure to the bacteria and seeking medical advice quickly is vitally important.
Gardeners — especially those over 60, smokers and people with respiratory issues — are especially vulnerable, but there are no reports of person-to-person transmission of the disease.
One horror story about legionella is of the woman who was in her garden when her cell phone rang. To answer it, she pulled her gardening glove off using her teeth. The next thing, she was in hospital being treated for legionnaire’s.
Gardeners should take care when handling bags of potting mix, compost and seed mix as well as things like lime or blood and bone. It goes without saying that no gardener should work without gloves, not just from the vanity aspect of protecting hands and nails. For fine work, such as pricking out tiny seedlings, latex gloves work well. Throw out any gardening gloves that have holes in the fingertips.
Mowing the lawn is a potential minefield. ACC paid out more than $20million for more than 21,000 mowing-related injuries between January 2015 and October last year. The scariest statistic was that almost 140 of those injured had to have amputations.
ACC advises always wearing non-slip closed shoes, protective eyewear and hearing protection when mowing lawns.
Not as life-threatening as those garden accidents are mishaps like tripping over a hose, suffering minor scrapes and cuts, or getting an infection (as I once did) from a rose prickle that buried itself too deep to be dug out with a sterilised needle.
Rather than poison, if you regularly need to zap weeds on driveways or paths, it may be worth investing in a gas-powered flame burner. They cost from about $79 (without gas cylinder) to several hundred dollars. Be aware, though, that regional fire restrictions may restrict their use at times.
Research which plants are poisonous to people, pets and stock, and study emergency first-aid procedures.
Taking care means you are less likely to spoil your gardening pleasure by an avoidable accident or infection.