First aid tips for gardening pros
Last updated 3 January 2021
Whether your pride and joy is a hydrangea plant or rose tree, if you have green fingers you’ll be longing for your much-loved garden.
But the nature of gardening tools and prickly plants means sometimes people accidentally get hurt. So here are some top first aid tips for gardeners.
Cuts and wounds
Pruning bushes and trimming hedges requires sharp kit like saws and shears. No matter how carefully you use them, it's all too easy to cut yourself or others – sometimes badly.
If blood is flowing heavily from a wound and it is not possible to stop the bleeding with a plaster:
- Put pressure on the wound with whatever is available to stop or slow down the flow of blood.
- Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it.
- Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
Trips and falls
Trips and falls are the most common garden-based accident and can lead to sprains, strains or even broken bones.*
Sprains and strains
Someone with a strain or sprain will have pain, swelling and/or bruising around a joint or muscle. If the injury is at a joint, the person may have difficulty moving a limb. You should:
- Apply an ice pack to the injury.
- Get the person to rest the injured part of their body in a raised, comfortable position. If there is no improvement, seek medical advice.
If a person is in pain and has bruising or swelling, they may have broken a bone. Their limb may also look out of shape or be bent at an unusual angle. You should:
- Help the person to support the injury using their hand or items of clothing (such as a spare jumper or t-shirt) to prevent unnecessary movement.
- Get the person to hospital. Call 999 if necessary.
Insect and plant stings
Wasps and bees love your garden but can also sting, as can some plants. Stings can lead to allergic reactions in some people, so make sure you know what to do.
- If someone has been stung and the sting is visible on the skin, use the edge of a credit card to scrape it away.
- Apply an ice-pack to the affected area to minimise pain and swelling.
- Watch for signs of a severe allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing and/or reddened and swollen, itchy skin on the hands, feet or face.
If someone has been stung in the mouth or throat, give them an ice cube to suck on or a glass of cold water to sip. These can prevent swelling. If swelling does start to develop, call 999 as it could get worse and block their airway.
Severe allergic reaction
Signs of a more severe allergic reaction include a rash, itchiness or swelling on a person's hands, feet or face. A person's breathing may also slow down. If you spot these signs:
- Call 999.
- Give them constant reassurance while waiting for the ambulance.
- If they have a known allergy and an auto-injector, help them to use it or do it yourself following the guidance on the product.
Gardening in the sunshine
Pottering around the garden in the warm, sunny weather can put you at risk of burns and dehydration.
The best defence is prevention by using suncream and drinking lots of fluids. But if you forget, here's what to do.
If you do get sunburnt:
- Move into the shade.
- Cool the affected skin by dabbing with cold water.
- Apply after sun lotion to soothe the area.
Signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, headaches, and dizziness and confusion.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is usually sufficient but oral rehydration solutions or isotonic sports drinks are better as they also replace lost salts.
First aid at your green fingertips
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*Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents