If you’re a chronic Do-It-Yourself-er, you probably have a pretty well-stocked first aid kit handy. Projects inevitably seem to end in a bit of pain, whether it’s a wood splinter from sanding down an old armoire or a cut that ends in bandaid from being a little too aggressive with a box cutter.
So, how can you take care of your body while also taking care of your house projects? Let’s take a look at some of the ways to maintain your health of both yourself and your home. Some of these tips may require a bit more set-up in the beginning but will offer a big payoff in the end.
Change positions frequently
Picture this. You’re super excited to be putting the finishes on a new headboard you made for your bedroom. It’s gorgeous. Heavy, wooden, and it looks like it came straight off a Pinterest board. You’re so enraptured in finishing it, that you’ve been leaning over it in the garage all Saturday; sanding, staining, and re-staining. By the time the afternoon rolls around, your back and knees are feeling the pain, and when you go to get up, you suddenly feel twenty years older. You’re certain you even heard your back crack as you tried to straighten up. Tomorrow is going to be a long Sunday when you realize how sore you’re going to be.
How do you combat the repetitive motion of something though? While it’s not always convenient, changing the way you’re doing something can be essential to not feeling awful later on. Can you change the alignment of the project you’re working on? If it’s a movable piece, prop it up differently so you’re not in awkward positions for lengthy periods of time. If that is not possible, switch up what you’re doing throughout the day.
If you are going to be bent over, or on your knees, all day, invest in a solid pair of knee pads. It is a day-and-night difference between kneeling on the hard, cold concrete and using knee pads. There’s a reason professional construction workers invest in them! They don’t have to be expensive, and you’ll likely wear them repeatedly if you have other DIY projects you want to conquer.
Keep work areas well ventilated
A lot of the products used when priming, painting, and staining require good ventilation. This is not just because they require it Don’t just think that’s just a suggestion, either! If you’ve ever stripped paint or used acetone, you’re aware of how harsh these can be to breathe in. Some solvent-based paints and products pose health hazards ranging from allergic responses like asthma to severe headaches. However, just because you can’t smell the solvent does not mean that they aren’t dangerous to your health; some products, such as low-odor solvents and paints, pose just as high of health hazards without the added scent to warn you. If possible, when using products that require good ventilation, either uses the products outside or keep windows and doors open, with a good fan nearby to assist.
If you experience a headache, skin irritation, trouble breathing, nausea, eye irritation, dizziness, or fatigue, close the product you’re using and leave the area immediately. A beautifully-painted living room is not worth risking your health!
Don’t ignore your skin
When you’re working with paints, oils, and solvents, wearing uncomfortable gloves, or washing your hands often, you may find your hands become drier and drier with each minute. Ensure you’re using a good hand cream that won’t cause any irritation. Also, make sure you’re wearing gloves that fit well and are made of a material that does not irritate your skin.
You may find that just by prepping your project your hands start to become red or irritated. Basic cleaning products that include bleach can often be a trigger for people with sensitive skin. If you see hives, notice an itch or pain, or any other sensitive skin symptoms, check the product to see how to deal with these issues. Some may recommend soap and water, while others will say rinse for an extended period of time. After you’ve remedied the skin issue, make sure that the gloves you are wearing fully protect your skin, and consider wearing long-sleeves to reduce the chance of the product coming into contact with the rest of your arms.
It should go without saying, but just as a reminder, if you have notoriously sensitive skin, or are prone to skin allergies, eczema, or psoriasis, take extra care to protect your hands and skin while working with potential allergens. The skin is a great barrier, but only when it’s a barrier; do not use new products, solvents, paints, or oils when you have broken skin whether it be a rash, cut, scrape, or blister.
Limit your distractions
While you might want to listen to your favorite podcasts or music while doing renovations or working on a project, try to limit other distractions. That might mean calling a friend back afterward, making sure your dog has had his walk earlier in the day and scheduling time to work on projects that use power tools or electricity when kids are napping, at school, or visiting with friends. This allows you to focus entirely on the job at hand without becoming distracted and putting your health at risk. Interruptions and distractions lead to mistakes and can be incredibly frustrating, as well as can be a source of injuries.
Additionally, if you are tired, put down the power tool. There’s no reason that a DIY project can not wait until you’re more rested and in a better headspace. If you want to continue working on it, consider doing the planning stage now, rather than actively work on it.
A well-stocked first-aid kit usually includes the basics: a bunch of bandages, antibacterial ointment, and a myriad of other things you might need. So, what else should you have on hand?
- Ice Packs: these are worth their weight in gold when you need them. If you have an injury in which you need to immediately reduce the swelling, turn to that ice pack. The ones easiest to use are ones that don’t freeze solid, but instead maintain a gel-like substance when frozen. They don’t feel quite as cold as direct ice, but they are great for placing in weird angles and can be molded to fit under clothes or between a pillowcase. They’re also great because they never freeze in a weird shape, unlike regular ice packs
- Burn Cream: If you weld, or use any hot tools, this is key to have handy. Your first aid kit may contain a typical burn ointment but look for ones that contain silver sulfadiazine, the active ingredient used in most hospitals for third-degree burns.
- Prescription medications. If you suffer from asthma, diabetes, or any other issue that may be prompted while working on a project, the last thing you want to do is start searching for your inhaler or medication. Having an extra set of medication easily on hand will reduce the panic associated with suddenly needing the medication.
Keep your regular first aid kit well-stocked. If you use several bandages, make sure to add them to your shopping list. The last thing you want is to run to the bathroom to find your first aid kit ravaged when you need it.
Keeping busy while doing home projects can be frugal, fun, and safe, just as long as you take the precautions necessary to protect yourself.