This Spring, Don't Fall

Cleaning can bring tumbles, sprains, but simple precautions can help

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FRIDAY, April 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Scrub and sweep, dust and discard this spring -- but be careful. Experts at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) say spring cleaning is prime time for injury.

In the United States in 2004, there were more than 547,000 ladder-related injuries, nearly 12,000 raking injuries, and about 221,000 lawn mowing-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Many spring cleaning injuries occur when people rush or do not follow the proper safety precautions," Dr. Jeffrey M. Smith, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in trauma, said in a prepared statement. "Because most injuries are preventable, it is important to use the appropriate equipment for each project and take your time to minimize spring cleaning-related accidents."

The AAOS offers the following tips:

  • Stretch and do warm-up exercises before you begin clean-up projects around the home, such as gardening or painting.
  • Place ladders on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
  • Use proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while tightening your stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand. If an object is heavy or has an awkward shape, don't try to lift it by yourself.
  • Don't over-reach or lean too far to one side when you're working on a ladder. You could lose your balance and fall. When you're on a ladder, your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.
  • Don't twist your body when you're raking. Use your legs to shift your weight and switch sides often while raking.
  • Have your lawnmower serviced before the start of each season to ensure that it's working properly. Never attempt to dislodge grass, dirt or anything else from the lawnmower while it's running.
  • Never use lawn and garden equipment in damp or wet conditions.
  • When you're gardening, avoid prolonged repetitive motions, such as digging, planting, pruning and trimming. Wear gardening gloves to reduce blistering and protect your skin.
  • After you're done using gardening tools and equipment, store them properly to avoid tripping over them.
  • Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • When using gardening or cleaning chemicals, read product labels for proper use and wear protective clothing and gloves. Store all chemicals at the proper temperature and out of reach of children and pets.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians offers these lawn and garden safety tips.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, April 11, 2006

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