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Stay safe while you tackle spring projects

Spring is the perfect time to start a home renovation project or plant a new garden. The warmer weather could lead to injuries, especially since people are used to spending more time indoors over the past year. Common injuries this time of year range from ankle sprains to Achilles tendon ruptures to injuries from motorcycle crashes.

Rockman Ferrigno, MD, chair of Bridgeport Hospital’s Emergency Department, Andrew Ulrich, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital and Christopher Davison, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Greenwich Hospital offered tips on how to stay safe this spring.

What can people do to stay safe when they work in the yard?

It seems like common sense but do not put your hands and feet in the lawn mower. Unfortunately, mower injuries happen every year.

If you are gardening, take it easy. No one wants to leave yard work half-finished for the day. However, pace yourself. The Emergency Department sees everything from shoulder irritations to rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition sometimes seen in athletes that causes muscle tissue to break down and can lead to kidney failure.

Beware of wasps and hornets when you’re spending time outside. If you have a history of allergies and rely on an EpiPen, make sure it is not expired and readily available.

Ticks also start to emerge in late spring and early summer. To prevent Lyme disease, use bug repellent, avoid high-risk areas like piles of wood chips and wear long sleeves and pants when out in the yard. When you are done gardening for the day, do a tick check.

What about when I’m exercising?

Even if you are just out for a jog, remember to stretch and run on well-lit roads. If you are riding a bike, or going roller blading, always wear the proper protective equipment, especially a helmet.

What can people do to stay safe when they clear out gutters?

Do not clean out your own gutters. Just don’t do it. This is a job best reserved for professionals.

If you have to use a ladder for any reason, don’t use it alone. Work with someone who can stabilize the ladder and be there for you in case of an accident.

How can people stay safe when renovating their home?

The Emergency Department sees so many injuries around home renovations. The common ones are splinters, foreign body to the eyes, running a skill saw across one’s thigh, fingers cut off in table saws, and nail gunning your hand to 2x4’s. A home renovation project can turn into Wile E. Coyote’s workshop quickly.

To stay safe, think about the work you are doing. Set your work area up to be safe. Use appropriate clamping to cut wood and wear your PPE, especially safety glasses. Find a mentor who can show you how to work safely around the tool you will need to do your project.

Perhaps most importantly, hire a professional for any job outside of your comfort zone. For example, an expert should always handle electricity.

How should people deal with hazardous materials?

Depending on the last time you cleaned out your garage or tool shed, you may have some dangerous materials laying around. Old pesticides, herbicides and old paint are classics. Environmentally be aware of these hazards and double check the appropriate way to dispose of them. When you are storing these materials, make sure they are labeled and tightly sealed so kids can’t get into them.

When you’re handling pesticides or chemicals, always do so in a well-ventilated area, wear protective clothing, gloves and eye protection. If you get any chemicals on your skin, wash it off right away.

Keep an eye out for rodent droppings and flammable liquids. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear a mask to avoid inhaling any dangerous particles.

Any other safety tips for the spring?

Most people know that daylight saving time is a good time to check the batteries in their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

It can also be a good time to check the expiration dates on your medications. Many police departments host ‘drug take back’ programs to make sure unused prescriptions don’t fall into the wrong hands. The Drug Enforcement Administration also hosts a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in many communities. The next one is slated for April 24th. Some pharmacies have drug drop-offs as well.

Anyone with a history of allergic reactions or anaphylaxis should double check their EpiPens to make sure they are not expired and that you have them in several different areas like your car in case you need it during a hike or boat trip.

You may also want to use daylight saving time to check your calendar. If you are overdue for a visit to your primary care physician, give them a call and schedule a check-up.