Risk level

Make hay while the sun shines

Working as a farmer is liberating and diverse, but the farm has to be looked after every day, all year round. A bit of this and that - accounts, operating machinery, looking after animals and shovelling hay - is part of the job. Unfortunately many of the jobs on a farm can cause allergies, asthma and eczema.

What are the risks?

As a farmer you run the risk of becoming allergic to your animals, their feed and dust in the air from hay and corn. This can result in a runny nose, itchy eyes and breathing difficulties. Pigs generate dust which can irritate your eyes and breathing as well as give you a fever.

Dairy farmers have to clean up their animals and milking machines frequently, which is wet work that is tough on the skin. Most farm work involves the hands, which is hard on the skin and can lead to hand eczema.

Prevention and avoidance

It's hard to protect yourself from the risk of developing an allergy to animals, as they are part of the job. Good ventilation in your working environment can help. Clean and tidy environments make it harder for mould to develop. Masks are a good idea in very dusty areas, and gloves can protect your hands from liquids and abrasive tools.

If you have asthma and/or eczema, it will be difficult for you to work as a farmer as you will come into contact with substances that will aggravate your condition. If you had atopic eczema when you were little, you should be aware that you are more likely than others to develop allergies working as a farmer.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions or want to know more about asthma and eczema when working as a farmer, get in touch with your school nurse or careers adviser.