5 Health Risks to Avoid When You’re Gardening Outdoors

Outdoor gardening brings joy to many across the US and the world. However, this hobby doesn’t come without health risks. Gardening and exposing yourself to the outdoor environment may not seem that big of a deal, but upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that the risks are always there.

In this article, we’ll help you identify some of the most common health risks associated with outdoor gardening and how you might be able to avoid or deal with them. 

#1 Exposure to Chemicals

One of the primary health risks associated with outdoor gardening is exposure to harmful chemicals. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pesticides contain toxic substances that can pose a threat to human health. Similar toxic substances are also found in fertilizers and herbicides. 

Prolonged exposure or improper handling of these chemicals is likely to cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, and even long-term health issues like cancer. 

In order to minimize the risks associated with the usage of these chemicals, you must carefully read and follow the instructions mentioned on product labels. The best option is to use organic or natural alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers whenever possible. 

At the same time, you should also wear appropriate protective clothing, such as gloves, goggles, and masks, when using these products. They can shield your skin, eyes, and respiratory system from coming in direct contact with harmful substances. 

Some specific products should be avoided at all costs. Take the Roundup weed killer as an example. Roundup’s active ingredient – glyphosate – has been found to increase cancer risk. This has led to the Roundup lawsuit, which has been filed against the product’s manufacturers as they failed to warn their consumers about the dangers of Roundup exposure.

According to TorHoerman Law, there have been over 100,000 cases against Roundup for failing to ensure the safety of its consumers. Products like these, which can’t guarantee your well-being, should never be used. Instead, look for alternatives that are safe or use organic ingredients instead of chemical ones that can ensure your safety. 

#2 Physical Strain and Injury

Gardening involves repetitive movements alongside heavy lifting and long periods of bending or kneeling. Doing all this can put a strain on your muscles and joints, leading to various musculoskeletal injuries such as back pain, sprains, and strains.

If you want to avoid these risks, you must practice proper body mechanics while gardening. Start by warming up before starting any physically demanding tasks.

Using ergonomic tools with padded handles and long handles to minimize strain on your body is also a good idea. Besides, varying your gardening tasks to avoid overexertion in specific muscle groups and using knee pads or a gardening stool can also reduce pressure on your knees and back.

#3 Sunburn and Heat-Related Illnesses

Working outdoors in the garden exposes you to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, increasing the risk of sunburn, skin damage, and potentially skin cancer. Besides, prolonged exposure to the sun and high temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses like heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on your skin before going outside. Also, seek shade whenever possible. This is especially important during the peak hours of intense sunlight. 

Besides all that, you should also stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and taking frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area to prevent overheating. Europe already saw a record-setting year of heat-related deaths last year, according to TIME

There’s no telling what the situation will be like this year and in the future. Thus, exercising extreme caution in the heat while gardening is a must if you don’t want to risk any severe health problems. 

#4 Allergies and Respiratory Irritation

According to NBC News, climate change is already increasing the risk of allergies in adults. Regular exposure to outdoor environments, such as when gardening, can further increase that risk. Gardens can harbor various allergens, such as pollen, mold spores, and dust, that can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Symptoms may include sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and respiratory irritation.

To reduce the risk of allergies and respiratory issues, wear a mask or respirator while working in dusty areas, especially during activities like digging or raking. Consider gardening during periods when pollen counts are lower, such as early mornings or after rainfall. Keep your garden well-maintained, free of excess debris, and regularly clean your tools and equipment to minimize the accumulation of allergens.

#5 Insect Bites and Vector-borne Diseases

Being outdoors in a garden exposes you to various insects, some of which may carry diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus, or Zika virus. Insect bites can cause itching, irritation, and allergic reactions.

In order to protect yourself from insect bites, the best idea is to wear long pants, sleeves, and closed-toe shoes. Also, it’s a good idea to use insect repellents that contain DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Such repellents are ideal for repelling mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects that bite.

Avoid stagnant water sources that can attract mosquitoes, and remove any standing water in your garden where they can breed.


You should never have to give up on your hobby of outdoor gardening. However, to make sure you’re doing it right and to avoid health risks, you must keep the above-mentioned points in mind and take necessary precautions. Only then can you fully immerse yourself in this hobby of yours without having to worry about your health and well-being. 

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