A guide to safely removing fallen leaves



Raking leaves is a chore many people immediately associate with autumn. Even though raking seems like a simple activity, it’s still possible to be injured while removing leaves from the yard.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises that pain from outdoor leaf chores can range from strained back muscles to twisted knees. Blisters on the hands and sunburn are other potential side effects. Many people do not realize that raking is a thorough cardiovascular workout. Individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease or those who have recovered from surgery may not be well enough to rake leaves.

Here’s how to make autumn leaf removal more of a breeze when the job is done safely.

• Pay attention when using a leaf blower. Be cautious not to point an operational blower in the direction of people or pets, as debris can

be blown about and cause injury.

• Stretch out before raking leaves. Warm up
muscles beforehand so they are less likely to
cramp. UPMC experts suggest taking a short
walk prior to raking to stimulate circulation.
• Use proper raking form. Much like snow
shoveling, one should emphasize proper
posture when raking, with legs slightly bent
and weight distributed evenly. Hold the rake
handle close to the body and keep one hand
near the top of the rake for better leverage.
• Use the proper gear. A leaf rake fans out
like a triangle and comes in various widths.
Choose a lightweight material that can be easily maneuvered. A metal rake is for stones and
dirt and shouldn’t be used for leaves. To get
between bushes, a smaller version of a leaf
rake, called a shrub rake, should be used.•

Wear protective gear. When raking or leaf
blowing, protect your eyes against debris.
You also may want to use a mask to prevent
inhalation of leaf mold and other particulates.
Gloves can protect hands from blisters.
• Follow manufacturers’ directions. Read the
instructions for powered leaf blowers, and
never modify the device in an unauthorized
• Use a tarp and lift wisely. Rake leaves onto
a tarp that can be dragged to a garbage pail
or to the curb for municipal pick up. For those
who must lift bags of leaves, do so by bending
at the knees, not from the waist.

• Wear sunscreen. Protect skin from the sun.
Even though temperatures are cooler in the
fall, this does not mean the sun’s rays are any
less harmful. Also, take breaks to rehydrate
• Use a secure ladder. When removing leaves
from gutters, be sure the ladder is sturdy
and secure. Consider having a friend serve
as a spotter, holding on to the ladder to offer
greater security. Do not overextend to stretch
for leaves.

If at any time during leaf clean-up you feel sharp or dull, incessant pains, stop working. Listen to your body’s signals and start the task anew the next day or when you feel better.

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