Health Watch -- Safe Mowing

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Now that spring warmth and rains have made your lawn lush and green, it's time to start mowing. Make sure you do it safely.

Every year, thousands of Americans are injured in lawnmower accidents. Some even die from these accidents. In the year 2000, more than 80,000 lawnmower-related injuries were reported by doctors. There's no telling how many other injuries either weren't reported or didn't require medical care.

Many lawnmower injuries involve partial or complete amputations of fingers or toes, and the doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas who treat these injuries say many of them could have been prevented with a little caution, concentration and common sense.

Dr. Maureen Finnegan, a UT Southwestern orthopaedic surgeon, says you should wear sturdy shoes with grip soles when you mow the lawn -- no flip-flops, please. Don't allow children to operate a lawn mower. Shut off the mower completely before you work on it or remove clippings. Keep bystanders -- especially children -- away from the mowing area. If you have to pry debris from the mower or its blades, use a stick instead of your fingers. Before you mow, examine your lawn for any objects that could be sent flying by the mower blades, such as rocks, sticks or toys.

If the worst should happen and you accidentally cut off a finger or toe while operating a lawnmower, find the amputated part and clean it with saline water. Wrap it in gauze and put it in a waterproof plastic bag, then put that bag over ice and get to the emergency room immediately.