Gardener diseases: Can you dig it?

Gardening certainly is good for your health. All that fresh air and exercise…  It’s not surprising so many studies show that gardening has both physical and mental health benefits.

But don’t take garden wellness for granted. Soil and plant material can harbor dangerous parasites and fungi. Here are a few garden health dangers and basic steps to protect yourself:

Soil-borne disease: Garden soil, compost, and sphagnum moss can spread diseases, like legionnaire’s disease, tetanus, and sporotrichosis (also called rose gardener’s disease). Wear garden gloves if you have any open cuts on your hands. And if you do nick yourself, take the time to clean and disinfect—even if it’s just a small scratch.

You should also wear gloves and long sleeves when you’re working with rose bushes, pine seedlings, and other plants likely to cause small cuts or punctures.

Mold spores: Be careful when cleaning out old leaves or moldy plant material. Breathing in fungal spores can cause severe respiratory issues.

Decaying plant material can host a fungus that causes aspergillosis, a serious lung disease which can lead to hospitalization and even death. To be safe, wear a face mask when working with compost and old mulch.

Ticks: Take precaution when working in the yard during tick season (roughly mid-May to mid-August), particularly if you live near a wooded area. Tiny deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a potentially debilitating illness.

Wear light colored clothing so it’s easier to spot any ticks. Wear long pants and sleeves and spray your clothing with a tick repellant that contains at least 25% DEET. And always do a tick check when you come back in the house. In most cases, the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. 

Animal poop: Always wash your garden fruits and vegetables before eating, even they look clean and even if you don’t use pesticides.  They may have trace amounts of bird poop and other animal feces, which can carry bacteria like listeria, E. coli, and salmonella.

Follow good health habits and take simple precautions to reduce your risk of contracting a “gardener’s disease.”