Your garden might look tame enough, especially now that you’ve finally trimmed the hedge - but be warned. It’s a jungle out there.
For all the amazing health benefits that gardening brings - including topping up your vitamin D levels, burning calories and lowering blood pressure - there are some pretty nasty surprises hiding in the plants and soil too.
Here’s what you need to look out for…
Thankfully deaths from tetanus are now rare thanks to vaccination, but the infection is still more of a risk for gardeners because the bacteria Clostridium tetani live in soil and manure.
It gets into the body through wounds or cuts, such as you might get from handling roses or rusty gardening tools.
Inside the body, the bacteria multiply and release a powerful poison, that causes stiffness and muscle spasms.
Make sure you wear gloves to garden and that your tetanus jabs are up to date.
If you’re worried, see your GP.
2. Legionnaires’ disease
Beware of standing water in your garden, as it’s potentially harbouring Legionella pneumophila bacteria - which can cause a type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease.
It’s more common in artificial water supply systems, like air conditioning, but has been found in sprinkler system too.
Another, less common type of the bacteria, Legionella longbeachae, can be found in soil and compost. Cases peak between July and September, and it’s more likely to affect gardeners over 50.
3. Back pain
With all that bending over flower beds, digging and stooping to sweep things up, it’s no wonder gardening is a common cause of lower back pain.
There are some simple ways to avoid it, however.
Bend your knees when shovelling soil, sit down to do weeding when you can, and try to keep a good posture, with a long spine, when you’re doing tasks that involve standing or kneeling on all fours.
4. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Gardeners love a warm, sunny day to get to work on their to-do list, but long periods spent in the sunshine could leave you feeling dizzy, dehydrated and even struggling for breath.
Make sure you stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm when it’s hottest, drink plenty of fluids and have regular rest breaks.
5. Carpal tunnel syndrome
CTS is quite a common condition that can result from doing repetitive, strenuous work with the hands and wrists.
One of the nerves that controls sensation and movement in the hand gets compressed and you’ll feel tingling, numbness and sometimes pain in the fingers and hand.
The best way to avoid it is to warm up your wrists and hands before you start gardening, like you would with all your muscles before a gym session.
6. Poisonous plants
Plenty of plants can cause tummy upsets, allergic reactions and rashes.
Foxgloves, laburnum and hellebores all have varying levels of toxicity, while gardening expert Hannah Stephenson warns: “Hyacinth bulbs are notorious for causing skin rashes, and the sap from some plants, including euphorbias and monkshood (aconitum), can cause allergic reactions”.
Make sure you were gloves at all times.
7. Lyme disease
This is the one that literally bites you on the bum, carried by those creepy critters called ticks. It causes fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches and in the long-term can affect nerve functioning.
Ticks love to hide in long grass, so when you come in from gardening do thorough check of your skin for ticks. If you find one, see your GP to have it removed and for a course of antibiotics.