Working in the Heat


The gardener has many problems: bugs, keeping the plants alive, weather, harvesting. In this blog, I want to discuss tips on how to cope with the hot summers in Northern California while gardening.  According to the CDC, approximately 600 deaths a year are related across the nation to heat or heat-related conditions. 

Coping with the temperature takes a little planning and using techniques that protect you while gardening. What are some of the symptoms of heat-related problems and how to deal with them?

  • Sunburns and Rashes (stages)
    • Symptoms: Redness and swelling. You have been in the sun enough time for the body to initiate its defense mechanism in the form of inflammation. At this stage, you can use creams, lotions with steroids, or Paracetamol.
    •  Treatments:
      • Get out of the sun
      • Moisturize your skin (avoid thick creams such as petrolatum jelly) look for light creams, often have one o/o hydrocortisone creams, aloe vera gel, creams with 0.5 lidocaine, after sun type lotions.
      • If the burn forms blisters, do not open blisters.
      • Stay hydrated but avoid alcoholic drinks
      • If more than a surface burn, anti-inflammatories may help
      • Rest. If blisters form: seek medical help
  • Heat Cramps or Heat Exhaustion
    • Symptoms: Heavy sweating, muscle pains or spasms, cold, pale or clammy skin, fast, weak pulse, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, fainting, occasional headaches.
    • Treatments: Move to a cool place, use damp cloths to cool your skin down, refreshing supervised shower (don’t want you to pass out without anyone knowing about it) drink water slowly (may cause nausea) Seek medical help
  • Heat Stroke
    • Symptoms:
      • High temperature (103 or higher)
      • Diaphoretic and hot feeling skin
      • Fast pulse, confusion
      • Dizziness and may pass out
      • Headaches
    • Treatments:
      • Seek medical help, call 911
      • Lower temperature with cold, damp cloths, move to the shade
      • Do not give fluids

There are many preventive things you can do when working during the summer heat.  Only work in the garden during the early morning hours or late in the evenings. There are sometimes you have to work during the weather, but best be prepared. Have water with you and drink frequently. Have a shaded bench or swing at the edge of the garden and take frequent rest times. Wear loose long sleeve shirts and a shady brimmed hat.  My garden is only in the backyard and along the side of my house, but I have a small table with a large umbrella set up.  I keep a container of freshwater, there and take frequent breaks. I usually only garden early in the mornings and late evenings. I keep water set out for my animals in the shade, so they have a rest area also.  If you have ways of protecting yourself from the summer heat, please share. Stay healthy

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