In the same way you need to take care to protect your muscles and joints when gardening outdoors, you also need to protect your skin from the sun and bug bites. Here’s how to stay safe:
- Use a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” with an SPF of at least 30. Don’t forget to spread sunscreen on those easily missed places on your body, such as your neck, ears, and any exposed scalp. And don’t ignore your lips: Choose a lip balm with SPF of 30 or higher.
- Use an insect repellent on your skin and clothing. Repellents recommended for their effectiveness include those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (which can all be applied to exposed skin) and permethrin, which should be sprayed only on your clothes (you can also buy permethrin-treated clothing). Don’t wear insect repellent underneath your clothes. When you return indoors, remember to check your clothing and skin for ticks.
- Wear protective gloves, sturdy shoes, long pants, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays and insect bites, as well as from sharp objects and chemicals or contaminants like pesticide.
- Make sure your tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date before you head for the garden; you need a booster shot every 10 years. The bacterium that causes tetanus is found in soil and can enter your body through cuts in the skin.
First published April 2019. Updated May 2020. A version of this article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.