Gardening is a fun, safe pastime and it is also a great way to get some fresh air or get the family or grandkids outside. But, as with many things, there are some precautions we should take to look after ourselves.
Did you know that Legionella longbeachae bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease - a rare form of pneumonia, are found in commercial potting mixes and are also in compost and soil?
The simplest ways to avoid breathing in or spreading Legionella bacteria are to:
- Wear a face mask and gloves while handling soil, potting mix or compost - gloves will also protect you from any sharp objects or biting insects living in the soil
- Wash your hands with soap and water after gardening, before eating, drinking, smoking or placing your hands near your face or mouth
- Open bags of potting mix in a well-ventilated space and directing the opening away from your face to avoid inhaling the mix
- Dampen potting mix with a light spray of water to reduce the risk of airborne particles, and water gardens and composts gently using a low-pressure hose
Although most people who breathe in the bacteria don’t become ill, the risk of disease increases with age, chronic lung disease, smoking, and in people with weakened immune systems.
The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease usually begin to appear within six days of being exposed to the bacteria. Early symptoms are like the flu, and include headaches, fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, and a dry cough or shortness of breath. If you experience these, you should see your GP for treatment.
For more information on Legionnaires' disease and garden safety, visit:
Reviewed 09 December 2022