Global temperatures have skyrocketed, and I see plants and people sweltering in the heat this summer. People who work, garden, or play outside are at risk for heat illnesses. Work in the garden in the heat; you’re kidding. If you take care of yourself, family, and friends, prepare before gardening, and watch out for each other for signs of heat-related illness, gardening in the summer is possible.
The CDC has posted a series of web pages about heat-related illnesses at Extreme Heat. Some signs of heat illness include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, and fainting. Any of these symptoms require immediate attention. Here are some tips to beat the heat:
The best times to garden when it’s hot are early or late in the day. However, the morning and evening are when mosquitoes are most active. Protect yourself from the biting fiends by wearing light colors and using reliable insect repellents. Reduce mosquito populations in your area by emptying standing water to reduce mosquito breeding sites.
Cover up for protection from the sun and heat. Wear a hat, long sleeves, and long pants for best results. Even occasional gardeners must take precautions to protect themselves from short-term effects – burns and long-term effects – skin cancer from sun exposure. Ensure clothes fit and are not baggy and floppy when operating equipment with moving parts: this will protect you from flying objects, being caught in moving parts, and exposure to the sun.
Dress for safety too. Leave the jewelry inside. Choose sturdy shoes with non-skid soles. Yes, that means no sandals, flip-flops, or canvas sneakers. It’s your toes you are protecting. You have eyes and ears too. Both can be at risk from mowers and other equipment. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection every time power equipment is operated.
If you plan to spend the day or even a few hours working outside, take precautions before gardening. Begin hydration upon waking – drink lots of water before you start the job. Take breaks every 30 minutes to drink more water; if you feel thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated. If you feel light-headed or dizzy, it’s time to get to a cooler location. Choose to hydrate with fluids that are caffeine and alcohol-free. Avoid sugar-laden and extremely cold drinks when you are very hot, as they can cause stomach cramps. Heat stress is a dangerous condition and requires immediate action.
The summer often brings afternoon thunderstorms to the South. Summer storms bring life-giving water and dangerous lightning. As storms approach while working outside, home gardeners and professionals habitually stay out to finish the task long after it is safe as storms approach. Don’t be fooled; lightning kills. Here is what NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says to do as thunderstorms approach;
All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.
- Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall.
- Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms before any rain arrives or after storms have seemingly passed and the rain has ended.
- If you can hear thunder, you are in danger. When the thunder roars, go indoors.
- Get to a safe place. If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, seek safety immediately. Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing are best.
- Stay away from tall objects like trees.
- Wait 30 minutes from the last sound of thunder to resume outdoor activity.
Work in the garden in the heat; you’re kidding, right? The summer’s heat is here, be cool and be safe.