Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Gardening health


It’s the season for gardening…and, many of us are enjoying the outdoors as we plant flowers and vegetables at our homes. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us Monday morning to share some health advice before we head outside.

Meghan Kulig: First of all, what are some health benefits of gardening?

Dr. Arnold: Gardening can be a fun way to get exercise. Gardening while standing can burn 150 calories in 30-45 minutes. Growing your own vegetables and fruits can also be a great source of fresh produce for your family's meals.

Meghan Kulig: What types of things should we keep in mind while gardening?

Dr. Arnold: Think about sun protection. While sunshine makes us want to be outside, we should think about putting on sunscreen before we head outdoors. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 am and 2 pm, so be extra cautious during this time.

Meghan Kulig: That's also the hottest time of day to be outside.

Dr. Arnold: Yes, and heat-related illness, like heat stroke, is a risk to keep in mind. Young children and the elderly, as well as those with certain medical conditions and taking certain medications are particularly susceptible. Make sure to stay hydrated and be proactive about seeking shade or cooler temperatures to avoid getting overheated.

Meghan Kulig: How about clothing for gardening?

Dr. Arnold: Choose clothing to help protect you from sun exposure like hats, long sleeves or pants, and sunglasses. Hats and sunglasses can also give the added benefit of potentially reducing some of your exposure to pollen. Gardening gloves, long sleeves or pants can help protect you against tick and mosquito bites.

Meghan Kulig: Ticks and tick-related diseases are always a concern around this time of year.

Dr. Arnold: Yes, Wisconsin has one of the highest incidences of Lyme disease in the country. Wearing light colored clothing to help see ticks before they attach to your skin can be helpful. Nymph ticks can be about the size of a pinhead, therefore they can be hard to spot. Shower after gardening and do a tick check so you can remove any ticks promptly.

Meghan Kulig: Are there any vaccinations that might have special importance for gardeners?

Dr. Arnold: Yes, bacteria that cause tetanus are found in soil. Since gardeners are at risk for puncture wounds from thorns, tomato cages, and the like, they can be exposed to the bacteria. The CDC recommends that adults receive tetanus boosters every ten years. Since a significant number of tetanus exposures have been linked to gardening and farming, check to see if your tetanus vaccine is up to date before starting gardening projects.


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