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Gardening: An Ounce of Prevention

up close photo of poison ivy | Johns Creek Family Medicine

Gardeners love to get outside and plant beautiful displays of annuals and perennials in pots and beds during May. Vegetable gardening has spurred the growth and popularity of individual and community gardens.  However, very few of these frantic agriculturalists have given a single thought to the possibility of contracting tetanus also known as “lockjaw.”  Most people know enough to check in with the doctor if they step on a nail, but the tetanus bacteria can be found in all planting mediums: soil, compost, manure, and potting mixes.  Anyone with a scratch or puncture wound is vulnerable. Everyday yardwork injuries–cuts and scrapes–account for almost 40% of the cases of tetanus in the U.S.  The best way to avoid tetanus and all its entailments is to check with Dr. Charkawi at Johns Creek Family Medicine. If you have not had a preventative shot within the last 10 years, don’t delay; make an appointment to get vaccinated TODAY.

In the rush to transform the yard and clear beds to plant, gardeners sometimes fail to recognize taxicodendron radicans or poison ivy. For identification purposes, the garden adage “Leaflets three; let it be” applies to poison oak as well as to poison ivy. Doctors treat countless cases of dermatitis caused by poisonous plants each year. Mild irritation and itching can be treated with a baking soda paste, an oatmeal bath, or over-the-counter products. Remember, the fluid released from blisters does not spread the rash, only coming in contact with urushiol or sap from the plant causes the condition. In order to avoid the aftereffects of a brush with poison plants, wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, closed shoes, and long pants to do spring gardening; AND wash yourself, your clothing, and even your dog after rummaging around in an untamed territory of the yard.

Keep your gardening experience happy and healthy this season. Project yourself against tetanus, and always wear gloves and dress sensibly to protect your skin from insect bites, sun burn, and plant-based poisons. When it comes to gardening and many other areas of life, it’s true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Dr. Charkawi is dedicated to your family’s good health and wellbeing. Call him today to make sure your shots are up-to-date and that other members of your family are up-to-date and protected against tetnus.

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