Look after your SKIN

Supplied by a team of healthcare professionals, Zenzile Life

Published: 3 May 2024

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Producers or individuals working on a farm are often exposed to various work-related hazards such as skin conditions caused by frequent exposure to, application and handling of pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides, and other chemicals.

Handling of these chemicals can increase the risk of chemical injuries and potentially serious health conditions. For example, irritant contact dermatitis results from direct contact with irritants such as pesticides and fertilisers, leading to redness, itching, and dryness. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the skin develops an allergic reaction to handling of certain agricultural chemicals or substances, often found in pesticides or plant life.

Furthermore, producers or persons involved in agriculture often spend lengthy hours outdoors, exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Without suitable protection, this can increase their risk of developing skin cancer and other sun-related skin conditions. The risk is further heightened by factors such as skin type, geographic location, and the failure to make use of protective measures.

Awareness and education about the risks of skin cancer, as well as the importance of sun protection, are essential for producers and farm workers to prioritise their skin health and reduce the incidence of serious health conditions.

Preventative measures
Preventing skin conditions among producers and their employees requires a combination of protective measures and regular monitoring. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Protective clothing and equipment: Wear long trousers and long sleeves, protective goggles and hats to minimise direct skin exposure to sun, agricultural chemicals, and plants. Remember that exposure to chemicals does not only occur during the preparation and application of the pesticide spray solutions or other chemicals, but also during the cleaning-up of spraying and other farm equipment. The correct use of the appropriate type of protective equipment in all stages is therefore essential.
  • Gloves: Use protective gloves when handling chemicals, plants, or animals to protect your hands from contact with irritants and allergens.
  • Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to exposed skin before going outdoors, and reapply when needed.
  • Avoiding and managing irritants: Be cautious when handling chemicals and properly wash hands and exposed skin after handling pesticides to remove dirt, chemicals, and allergens. Avoid mixing or applying pesticides in windy conditions.
  • Regular skin checks: Conduct regular skin self-exams to detect any changes early. Seek medical attention for any suspicious lesions. Regular skin checks and prompt medical attention for any suspicious moles or lesions are also vital for early detection and treatment of cancer. If you are a farmer or working on a farm, it is essential to prioritise skin health and seek medical attention for any concerning skin changes.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated, especially in dry or hot conditions. Seek shade whenever possible, and try to avoid outdoor work during peak sun hours.
  • Education and training: Stay informed about potential risks and safe practices for handling chemicals and equipment. Depending on the specific type of farming and the specific chemicals used on the farm, producers and other workers should receive regular, updated training on safe pesticide handling practices. They also need to be aware of the symptoms of pesticide-related skin conditions and seek medical attention where needed.
  • Medical check-ups and skin checks: It is important for producers and people working on a farm to regularly visit a healthcare professional for skin screenings and advice on skin health. Regular medical check-ups and early intervention are essential for managing these conditions and preventing long-term health effects. Open communications with healthcare providers about specific skin concerns may help medical personnel make personalised health recommendations or refer to other health specialists.
  • Proper equipment maintenance: Ensure that protective equipment is in good condition and replace when necessary.

Poor health (including harmful skin conditions) can impact a producer’s livelihood as it affects their ability to work effectively. Skin conditions or other health issues may prevent producers and employees from performing essential tasks on their farms, leading to financial strain.

Health issues directly affect a person’s overall quality of life. Chronic skin conditions or health problems can cause discomfort, pain, and even emotional distress, impacting not only the producers or their employees themselves but also their families and communities. Given these factors, prioritising general health and addressing skin conditions are not only important for the individual’s well-being but also for the sustainability of agriculture as a whole. It requires implementing appropriate safety measures, providing access to healthcare services, and raising awareness about the importance of health maintenance among farming communities.

This article was made available by the team of health care professionals of Zenzile Life (www.zenzilelife.com). It is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment.