Marin Master Gardeners
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Marin Master Gardeners

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A first-aid kit for gardeners is thoughtful and helps keep them safe

December 4, 2015
Dot Zanotti Ingels

I am an avid gardener, but for all my adult life, I have also been a practicing registered nurse. No matter what I do, the principles of safety and health are always at the top of my priority list. Gardeners are quick to head outdoors to do what they love but they do not always think ahead to what happens when mindfulness gets lost in the bliss of being in their gardens.

Since this is the season for gifting, I wanted to suggest a great idea for a gift you can easily put together for the gardener in your life. It will be an additional garden tool kit with things he or she may need but probably never thought to put together. In my professional life I have found that people are often not prepared for basic first aid when they need it. In my gardener’s first-aid kit your gardener will find what he or she needs when “oops” happens (and it does to everyone eventually).

Find a tote that holds all the essentials together for ease of storage and quick access. Choose something sturdy. Gardeners are not known for their delicacy.

Let’s start with what your gardener needs just as he or she is heading out the door. Include a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and a lip balm with SPF to keep burns away when he or she loses track of time. If your gardener’s prone to insect bites, some version of repellent may be in order and an after-bite relief product. A nice large thermal water bottle will help ensure that he or she stays hydrated. A couple of pairs of gloves are essential. One pair is for general work and the second is a heavy-duty, high-cuff pair for working around thorns.

It is super easy to buy a simple first aid kit at a pharmacy. The brand is not significant, but you want to read the label to make sure the essentials are included and then you can simply supplement with the extras. If there is something in the kit that may cause a known allergic reaction to your gardener, simply remove it and replace it with a safe alternative.

What are the essentials? Minor cuts and scrapes are common for gardeners. After washing hands with soap and water, to thoroughly clean a wound, he or she will need cleansing wipes. Alcohol wipes come in individual use packs. They can be used to clean a wound and to sterilize the tweezers you will need to include for splinter and thorn removal. You may want to include a mini magnifier for the gardener who has trouble seeing a small splinter.

Once the wound is cleaned, it is a good suggestion to apply a general antibiotic ointment and cover it with a gauze pad or band aid. The kits usually come with a selection of sizes of these products. The gauze pads will need a paper tape (no scissors required for cutting and generally hypoallergenic). Non-stick pads in a variety of sizes are always a good idea. The gauze pads are also good for the cleaning process and to put pressure on a lightly bleeding wound. Some of these products are also useful to cushion the friction that can cause blisters or carefully protect a healing small blister.

Aches and pains seem to follow a long day in the garden. A cold pack is always a good idea. You may want to include a mild analgesic. A muscle ache rub is often a relief. An Epsom salt soak is an amazing relief. A rich emollient skin cream like bag balm will soothe weary hands.

As always, this is first aid for minor issues. For more serious or actively bleeding wounds that cannot be easily stopped, a call to the doctor or ER is essential. It is also a good idea to remind your favorite gardener to keep up with his or her tetanus shots.

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