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Pointers on Doing Your Spring Gardening Safely

April 05, 1999|TIMES STAFF REPORTS

It is critical for gardeners to properly protect themselves when outdoors. Among the required equipment:

* A brimmed hat to protect your head from the sun. A baseball cap isn't enough. The brim should go fully around to protect your oft-forgotten (and very sensitive) neck.

* Gloves. The Carole King School of Gardening prefers to "feel the earth." It is wise, however, to wear protection on your hands. This way your hands are safe from thorny plants and possible germs left by birds and animals who may have used your garden for purposes other than smelling the flowers. With gloves, you're also less likely to put your hands to your face and transmit disease and allergens. Besides, with gloves you have less dirt to wash off.

* Sunscreen. An hour before you go outdoors, apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. For prolonged exposure, an SPF of 30 is recommended. Apply to your face, neck, shoulders, arms, thighs and lower legs. And don't forget the backs of your legs. Reapply if you're sweating.

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Other tips for your protection:

* Work in the garden during the early morning or late afternoon hours when the sun isn't so brutal.

* Protect your knees with either a kneeling pad (available in most garden centers), soccer-style knee pads (available in most sporting goods stores) or a rolling stool.

* Wear flat-soled shoes, preferably sneakers. Shoes with laces are recommended because your feet are covered and therefore protected. And because the ground might be wet, you're less likely to slip or lose your balance than you would be in clogs or slippers.

* Wear protective clothing made of breathable fabric such as cotton. Pants and sleeves should be long.

* Drink fluids, especially water, to prevent dehydration.

* Remove all clothing and wash immediately after gardening. This way you reduce the amount of allergens in the house.

* Shower right after gardening and wash your hair. (And if you feel like taking a nap after all that gardening, shower first. Allergens have no shame about making themselves comfy in your bed.)

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