How to Protect Your Hands While Gardening

hand protection
Gardening should be fun, but if you don’t take the proper precautions, it can have dangerous—or in some cases, even deadly, consequences.

An estimated 87,000 people are injured while gardening every year. While the most common injuries are caused by slips and falls, cuts are the culprit of some of the more serious injuries. Many of those cuts take place on the hands.

But cuts and scrapes are not the only gardening-related injuries the hands are vulnerable to. So, before you decide to spend the day working in your garden, make sure you’re thinking about hand protection.

There are lots of steps you can take to make sure you are caring for your hands while working in the garden. You might think it is as simple as wearing a decent pair of gardening gloves, but there’s more to it than that.

Understanding the risk of garden-related accidents can help you avoid hand injuries. Taking precautions can help you protect your hands, and stay out of the emergency room.

The Risk of Hand Injuries in the Garden

Understanding the hazards and risks associated with gardening is one of the best ways to prevent hand injuries.

Gardening may seem like an innocent pastime but if you’re not careful, it can be dangerous. You could fall and break a bone, slice yourself on a gardening tool or even face dehydration.

Your hands are especially vulnerable because they are the most exposed.

That’s why it’s important to find a good pair of gardening gloves. But, even with your gardening gloves, your hands are at risk.

Here are some of the potential hand issues triggered by gardening:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Blisters
  • Bruises
  • Calluses
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Dry skin
  • Gamekeeper’s Thumb
  • Infections
  • Ring Avulsion
  • Sepsis
  • Snake bites
  • Sunburns
  • Tendonitis
  • Tetanus
  • Trigger thumb

Give Yourself a Manicure

Taking precautions to look after your hands begins before you even step outside—with your nails.

Did you know that dirt can still get stuck in the crevasses of your skin and nails when you’re wearing gardening gloves? Bacteria thrive under your nails and if you’re not careful, it can lead to infection.

Keeping your nails cut short and smooth can help prevent soil from lodging itself under your nails.

Hand-Care Routine

Most people spend time washing up when they come in from a day of gardening. But, you might be surprised to hear that a hand-care routine is equally important before you start gardening.

Before you put your gardening gloves on, you should wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap and warm water. Then, apply a moisturizer to help prevent dry skin and calluses. Remove your rings to prevent ring avulsion and keep your jewelry safe and clean.

Bandage Any Wounds

Bacteria and fungi belong in the garden, but it’s important to keep those organisms away from you. Before venturing outside, take note of any cuts or scrapes you may already have.

Apply a bandage to securely cover any open wounds. This will keep the exposed area of your wound clean and prevent bacteria from getting to it.

You should also have an ointment handy so you can disinfect any wounds you have, or any new ones you may get while you’re gardening. This will prevent infection.

Hand Protection Sunscreen

Don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen for when the gloves come off. When it comes to sun protection, the hands are one of the most overlooked areas of the body.

Did you know there are sunscreen products specifically designed to protect your hands? It’s called hand screen and it replenishes your skin while keeping the UV rays away.

There will be times when you have to remove your gardening gloves to tend to smaller plants or simply to take a break. Make sure to protect your hands from the sun.

Keep the Bugs Away

Gardening is a lot more enjoyable if you’re not swarmed by bugs. Even if you’re wearing gloves, your hands aren’t always safe from bug bites.

It’s recommended that you do your best not to disturb the bugs as you work away in your garden. Of course, that isn’t always possible.

Mosquitos, bees and spiders are just a few of the pests in your garden. Some of these bugs carry disease, so make sure you are keeping your hands safe.

Apply insect repellent with 20 percent DEET to fend off the bugs. Bugs gravitate towards floral smells so be mindful of the antibacterial soap and moisturizer you use before you head outside.

Stretching

You probably wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching. Apply the same care to your hands. With all the repetitive movements and gripping, gardening is a marathon for your palms.

Exercising your fingers can get your blood flowing which can help your joints and increase your flexibility. By exercising your muscles, you will reduce the risk of injury.

Set aside some time to warm up your muscles and tendons with some stretches and exercise before you reach for your gardening tools. Make a fist, flex your thumb and stretch and bend your fingers. Using a stress ball can help as well.

Stretching beforehand can prevent ailments like tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and arthritis.

Choosing Your Gardening Gloves

Gardening gloves are an obvious choice for protecting your hands. When worn correctly, gardening gloves will protect you from toxic or prickly plants, harsh chemicals and any infectious bacteria breeding in the soil.

But how do you know if you’re buying the right gardening gloves?

When it comes to looking for a gardening glove, look for durability and good quality. A great glove should keep your hands covered and your fingernails clean.

Look for a glove that is adjustable or has elastic around the wrist. The glove should sit snug around your wrist to create a barrier between your hands and the outdoors.

You can choose between rubber gloves, cloth gloves, rubber-coated gloves and synthetic rubber gloves. Glove types vary in cost and each style comes with pros and cons.

Mind Your Posture

When you do begin gardening, make sure you’re paying attention to your posture.

In addition to completing repetitive tasks, your hands may be gripping heavy tools. Your grip should be relaxed and not overly clenched. When possible, you should use wide-handled tools to eliminate the need for a heavy grip.

You should aim to relax your wrist and hand as much as possible while you work. Use larger joints like the shoulder to help alleviate the strain on your hands. Avoid overstretching by getting as close to the item you’re aiming for as possible.

If you already suffer from hand issues like carpal tunnel, you may consider wearing a brace. This can help you maintain a proper posture so you can focus more on those pesty weeds and less on your hand pain.

Take Breaks

Because of the strain gardening causes on your hands and body, you must take time to rest. Take regular breaks between tasks.

A break is a great time to have a sip of water. But it’s also a great time to reapply moisturizer, sunscreen and insect repellant to your palms. Let your hands out of the gardening gloves so they can get a chance to breathe.

This is also a great time to do some more hand stretches to avoid any major strains or cramping.

Don’t overdo it. If you are experiencing hand pain, that may be your body’s way of telling you to slow down. You can ask others for help or return to the garden later when you’ve had a bit of rest.

Using Your Tools Safely

Tools are one of the biggest hazards associated with gardening.

Before reaching for your hand tools, you should inspect them to make sure the handles are free of splinters and everything is in working order. The blades of your gardening tools should be sharp and held away from your body as much as possible.

In addition to managing your grip, you should aim to change activities every 15 minutes. It’s not healthy for your hands to continue doing the same task for much longer than that. Set an alarm on your phone to avoid prolonged repetition.

Make sure you understand the appropriate way to use the tools. Have someone show you or read the manuals for your tools fully before using them. This will help you avoid injuries.

Make sure you are using the safety locks on your tools. You should also take extra care to ensure tools are stored safely when you are putting them away.

Avoiding Dangerous Plants

Wearing your gloves can also shield you from the dangers of fussy and toxic garden plants.

For example, rose bushes and barberry plants have tough thorns. A good pair of gloves will prevent the thorns from puncturing through and keep your hands safe.

You should also be mindful of surrounding plants. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can creep toward your garden. It’s important to keep your skin protected and recognize what these toxic plants look like to prevent exposure.

Washing Up

Washing your hands after a long day in the garden isn’t just hygienic, it can be therapeutic. Make your post-garden wash as enjoyable as possible.

Fill the sink with warm water. Soak your hands for a few minutes and reach for an anti-bacterial soap. A bar of soap is best as it will help you release any dirt stuck under your fingernails.

Use a soft nail brush to help you get under your nails and extract any soil that might be lurking. You can gently use a pumice stone on your hands to remove any dead skin.

Dry your hands well and apply a moisturizer or hand cream. Take care to gently massage your hands and relax your muscles.

Hand Health Warning Signs

Hand issues related to gardening can be avoided by taking the proper precautions but accidents still happen.

It’s important to understand the symptoms of hand pain. Some common gardening injuries won’t go away on their own and in rare cases, you may need to seek medical assistance.

Muscles and Tendons

Numbness, pins and needles, a weak grip and swollen-feeling fingers are linked to carpal tunnel, gamekeeper’s thumb and trigger thumb. Mild swelling and tendon pain are linked to tendonitis.

In some cases, these conditions can eventually require hand surgery.

Allergies

Redness, bumps, blisters, itching and swelling are linked to plant allergies. This may be related to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

Physical reactions to pesticides show similar symptoms and can be treated with allergy medicines.

Infection and Sepsis

Pus, swelling and redness are signs of a possible infection. That should be treated and closely monitored because it can become serious.

If you experience a fast heart rate, chills or sweats or confusion you should seek medical attention immediately. You may be exhibiting symptoms of sepsis.

Taking Care of Your Green Thumb

Gardening should be a positive and relaxing experience. But before you grab your shovel and rake, make sure you prioritize your hand health.

Hands are susceptible to a multitude of hazards in the garden. Failing to use the proper hand protection could result in hand injuries, exposure to toxic plants or harmful chemicals or even a trip to the hospital.

It can be difficult to prepare for all the risks your hands are exposed to in the garden. But by taking the appropriate precautions before going outside, you can keep your hands safe and healthy.

If you’re looking for more information on hand health, check out our blog. We can help you manage your hand issues.

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