Asthma and Agriculture


Use the following format to cite this article:

Asthma and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66326/asthma-and-agriculture.

 

Asthma is characterized by airflow obstruction, bronchial hyper-responsiveness, and chronic inflammation of the airways. These responses cause wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and tightness in the chest. 

Asthma Types

The two most common types of asthma are allergic and nonallergic. The type of asthma depends on the triggers and environments that cause symptoms.

Allergic or Atopic Asthma

Allergic asthma, also referred to as atopic asthma, is caused by exposure to allergens such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and so on. These allergy triggers—pollen, for example—may not be present at all times, so asthmatic symptoms vary depending on the season and the environment.

Allergic asthma activates the body’s immune system, which protects the body from harmful foreign substances and microbes. When the body comes into contact with a foreign substance, it releases antibodies to react with or destroy the substance. However, sometimes the antibody release involves the overproduction of an antibody called immunoglobulin E, causing a release of chemical mediators such as leukotriene, prostaglandin, and histamine, which can result in the contractions of airway muscles that characterize an asthma attack.

Nonallergic Asthma

Nonallergic asthma is triggered by nonallergenic substances such as wood smoke, grain dust, tobacco smoke, fresh paint, cleaners, perfumes, and so on. Symptoms are similar to those of allergic asthma. Repeated exposure to these nonallergenic substances causes the release of chemical mediators (described above) that can cause airway constriction.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma, the type of asthma most commonly associated with agriculture, is typically caused by exposure to a substance in the workplace that enters the lungs and activates the immune defense mechanism. The management of occupational asthma symptoms is impacted by exposure to allergens. Agricultural workers on farms and at grain elevators and food processing plants are at an increased risk of occupational asthma.

Examples of Causes or Aggravators of Occupational Asthma

Agricultural producers are exposed to a wide variety of allergens than can cause asthma or aggravate existing asthma. Additional risk factors for the development of asthma include genetics, gender, allergies, and environmental factors (such as tobacco smoke, mold, and so on).

Some of the triggering agents associated with asthma in agriculture include the following:

  • Grain dust: Grain dust is commonly found in barns, flour mills, and grain-storage facilities. Asthma resulting from grain dust occurs when a person is sensitized to the grain dust or a dust component.
  • Bacteria and fungi: Airborne bacteria and fungi (mushroom spores, mold, and so on) residing in agricultural structures can get into the lungs of an agricultural producer. Some of the cellular components of these bacterial and fungal microorganisms can cause an immune response that can result in an asthma attack.
  • Insects: Mites can be found in most homes and agricultural settings. These extremely small insects feed off organic material and may trigger asthma attacks for some people. Storage mites can be found in storage areas of organic products; dust mites are located wherever there is dust; and red spider mites are located in certain greenhouse crops. Cockroaches and their droppings can also trigger asthma attacks in some people, so it is necessary to clean areas attractive to cockroaches at least every two to three days.
  • Pesticides: Some of the pesticides used to get rid of pests have been associated with agricultural asthma.
  • Animal products: Potential allergens from animals include substances that contain proteins, such as dander, saliva, urine, and feces. The breakdown of urea and ammonium excretions can cause a release of ammonia in the environment that can be a respiratory irritant. Feathers and wool can also trigger asthmatic reactions.
  • Pollen
  • Tobacco leaves
  • Chemicals: Chemical irritants include polyvinyl chloride vapor and amprolium hydrochloride.
  • Wood smoke: Burning wood releases a mixture of harmful gases that can cause asthma attacks.

Other Types of Asthma

Other types of asthma include the following:

  • Viral-induced asthma: Viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, can trigger an asthma attack.
  • Nocturnal asthma: Nocturnal asthma refers to asthma that worsens during the night—typically between two and four o’clock in the morning—either due to sinus infection or from the presence of an allergen such as dust mites or pet dander. Often gastrointestinal reflux (heartburn) is worse at night and may trigger an attack.
  • Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS): RADS occurs after exposure to high concentrations of airborne irritants, such as chlorine. Asthmatic symptoms develop within 24 hours and may continue for several months or longer. Symptoms may recur with further exposure to high concentrations of the irritant.

Exercise and air temperature (especially cold air) can also trigger a person’s allergic or nonallergic asthma.

Reducing Your Risk of an Asthma Attack

Anyone with symptoms of asthma should have a primary medical care provider. Those with persistent symptoms may need to use a daily controller medicine, usually one that is inhaled, to reduce the chance of a flare-up. In addition, people with asthma should also always have a rescue inhaler available for acute symptoms.

The following actions can reduce allergens on your farm or ranch and limit your exposure to allergens:

  • Store grain at recommended moisture-content levels to reduce mold growth.
  • Properly ventilate animal-housing areas to reduce the accumulation of ammonia and other gases.
  • Frequently remove animal waste to reduce the buildup of ammonia and decrease your exposure to urine and fecal allergens.
  • Identify dust hazards at your farm or ranch and reduce exposure by cleaning these areas. Limit your time in dusty areas.
  • When cleaning a barn or stable, wet down areas to avoid dust from becoming airborne.
  • If you are a farm manager, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for your employees.
  • Wash your work clothes in hot water at least once per week.
  • To protect against dust, bacteria, fungi, insects, and animal products when cleaning, spraying, harvesting, handling grain, or working in an animal-confinement building, wear an N-95 or N-100 disposable particulate respirator that is properly fitted and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Double Strap Respirator

Double Strap Respirator

(Particulate Respirator. Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Resources

  • For more information about respiratory illnesses associated with agriculture, click here to link to the article “Respiratory Illnesses Associated with Agriculture.”
  • For more information about the hazards of grain dust, click here to link to the article “Grain Dust Explosions.”
  • For more information about PPE and respiratory protection, click here to link to the article “Respiratory Protection on the Farm and Ranch.”

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Asthma and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66326/asthma-and-agriculture.

 

Sources

Asthma. (2005) Candian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/asthma.html.

Asthma. (2012). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm.

Schenker, M.B.(2005) Farming and asthma. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Retrieved from http://oem.bmj.com/content/62/4/211.1.full.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Tom Irons, MD, East Carolina University  ironst@ecu.edu
David Lipton, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services  david.lipton@dhhs.nc.gov
Rick Langley, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services  rick.langley@dhhs.nc.gov
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

 

 

Use of Hand Signals in Production Agriculture


Use the following format to cite this article:

Use of hand signals in production agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62262/use-of-hand-signals-in-production-a….

 

Hand signals are an important means of communication on farms and ranches when noise levels are too loud or the distance is too far between workers to effectively use verbal communication. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) developed a standardized set of 11 hand signals for use in production agriculture to enhance communication and promote safety (ASABE, 2011). With the exception of one hand signal, all of the signals can be completed with the use of one arm.

Hand signals can be used to effectively communicate instructions, save time, and lower the risk of an injury or death. As a farmer or rancher, you need to understand the hand signals and teach the hand signals to those involved in your operation. The ASAE hand signals are shown below: 

This far to go (ASAE Figure 1)

ASABE Hand Signal

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Place palms at ear level facing your head and move inward to show the remaining distance to go.

Come to me (ASAE Figure 2)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 2

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Raise your arm vertically over your head, palm out to the front, and rotate in large horizontal circles.

                  

Move toward me (ASAE Figure 3)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 3

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Point toward the person, vehicle, or unit.  Signal by holding arm horizontally to the front, palm up, and motiong toward the body.

Move out (ASAE Figure 4)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 4

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Face the desired direction of movement; hold the arm extended to the rear: then swing the arm overhead and forward in the direction of desired movement until the arm is horizontal with palm down.

         

Stop (ASAE Figure 5)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 5

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Raise the hand upward to the full extent of the arm, palm to the front. Hold that position until the signal is understood.

Increase speed (ASAE Figure 6)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 6

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Raise the hand to the shoulder, fist closed; thrust the fist upward to the full extent of the arm and back to the shoulder rapidly several times.

Decrease speed (ASAE Figure 7)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 7

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Extend arm horizontally sideward with palm down; wave arm downward at 45 degrees minimum several times.  Do not move your arm above horizontal.

Start the engine (ASAE Figure 8)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 8

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Move arm in circular motion at waist level to simulate cranking engine.   

  

                   

Stop the engine (ASAE Figure 9)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 9

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Draw right hand, palm down, across your neck in a “throat-cutting” motion left to right.

Lower equipment (ASAE Figure 10)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 10

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Use circular motion with either hand pointing to the ground.

Raise equipment (ASAE Figure 11)

ASABE Hand Signal Fig 11

From ANSI/ASAE Standard S351 FEB1972 (R2011): Hand signals for use in agriculture. Copyright American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used with permission.

Make circular motion with either hand at head level.

 

Resources:

Click HERE for on Hazardous Occupations Safety Training in Agriculture (HOSTA) Task Sheet 2.9 to see diagrams and examples of when to use each of the hand signals.   

Use the following format to cite this article:

Use of hand signals in production agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62262/use-of-hand-signals-in-production-a….


Sources

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). 2011. ANSI/ASAE S351 FEB1972 (R2007), Hand Signals for Use in Agriculture. ASABE Standards 2011. St. Joseph, MI: ASABE.

Harshman, W., Yoder, A., Hilton, J., & Murphy, D. (2013) Hand signals. Hazardous Occupational Safety Training in Agriculture Task Sheet 2.9.  Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/sites/default/files/NSTMOP%20Task%20Sheets%20Se….

Johnson, S. & Murphy, D. (2008) Agricultural hand signals. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://extension.psu.edu/business/ag-safety/vehicles-and-machinery/gener….

 
Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University – djm13@psu.edu
Charles V. Schwab, Iowa State University – cvschwab@iastate.edu
 Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Heat-Related Illnesses and Agricultural Producers

 

Sunset photo

Sunset Photo

(Source: Penn State Ag Safety and Health)

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Heat-related illnesses and agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62261/heat-related-illnesses-and-agricultural-producers.

 

Farmers and ranchers perform job responsibilities in all types of weather conditions including excessive heat and humidity. It is important for agricultural producers to understand risks associated with working in high heat work environments, potential heat-related illnesses, precautionary steps, and appropriate medical responses.

Understanding the Body’s Response to Heat

Our body’s primary defense against heat is through sweating. Sweating allows moisture to collect on the skin and evaporate. Sweating happens when the surrounding environment becomes greater than skin temperature. When this occurs, an internal body system called the sympathetic nervous system releases a chemical called acetylcholine which turns on sweat glands in the skin in an area called the dermis. The sweat glands release moisture and move it to the outer surface of the skin for cooling. However, in hot, humid weather, the moisture does not always evaporate and can collect on the skin causing the body to warm up and the heart to pump more blood to the skin. When this happens, the body starts to sweat excessively and depletes the body of water and electrolytes, which can lead to a heat-related illness. 

The range for normal body temperature is between 96° to 100°F. Hard exercise, strenuous work, or fever will usually put the body in a range between 101° to 105°F. At 105° to 107°F, cooling treatment or fever therapy may be needed, and at even higher body temperatures, heat exhaustion and heat stroke usually occur. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke indicate a serious impairment to the body’s cooling system and is a definite signal for medical assistance. Heat stroke or body temperatures beyond 110°F may result in death.

Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illnesses

Everyone is at risk for heat-related illness if they do not follow standard precautionary measures. The following factor(s) can increase the chance for developing one of the five main heat-related illnesses:

  • Being elderly or an infant.
  • Having certain medical conditions such as circulatory problems, heart conditions, or pregnancy.
  • Being physically unfit or overweight.
  • Consuming alcohol and/or drugs (including prescription medication; for example. the medication atropine interferes with the ability to sweat).
  • Having lower heat tolerance levels or not becoming acclimated to working in high heat and humidity.
  • High temperatures and humidity levels in the environment (as well as sun radiation or heat-conducting surfaces like black asphalt).
  • Not having adequate fluid intake levels needed to hydrate the body.
  • Limited air flow or breeze to aid in the cooling process.

Breakdown of Common Heat-Related Illnesses

There are five heat-related illnesses: heat rash, syncope, cramps, exhaustion, and stroke. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are typically the most severe and require immediate medical attention. Figure 1 outlines each illness, typical symptoms, and treatment.

Fig. 1: Breakdown of Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat-Related Illnesses Cause Symptoms Treatment
Heat rash Excessive sweating during humid weather Red, blotchy skin rash; clusters of pimples or small blisters Keep the affected area dry, and treat with cornstarch or powder.  Work in a cooler, less humid work environment.
Heat syncope Prolonged standing or rising suddenly from a sitting or lying position Light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting Move person to a cool place to lie down, elevate the feet, and give liquids to drink. 
Heat cramps Loss of body salts and fluids from sweating during strenuous activity Pain in stomach, arms, and/or legs Stop activity, drink clear or sports beverage. Massage affected muscles. 
Heat exhaustion Excessive loss of body salts and water from sweating  Cool, pale skin, dizziness, headache, cramps, nausea, sweating, weakness, confusion, high body temperature, and unconsciousness Have the person drink plenty of cool fluids, remove excess clothing, and apply cool compresses. Call for medical attention.  
Heat stroke System that regulates body temperature fails and the body temperature rises to critical levels High temperature, hot dry skin, slurred speech, confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures Immediately call for medical assistance. Move the person to a cool place, and slightly elevate the head and shoulders. Remove outer clothing, and cool the body with water, wet towels, or sheets. 

Recommendations to Avoid Heat-Related Problems

  • Do not wait until you are thirsty – drink approximately 8 oz. (1 cup) of water every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Take a 15-minute break in a shaded area every two hours.
  • Monitor the weather, and schedule strenuous work activities accordingly to reduce exposure to high heat situations.
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight, and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and large amounts of sugar when exposed to heat because they can increase your rate of dehydration.
  • Check your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to determine if there are any side effects when you are exposed to heat.
  • Appropriately wear specialized protective gear such as cooling vests to reduce your risk of a heat illness;  if used inappropriately, heat illness can actually increase.
  • Learn about prevention of heat illness and teach your workers about health and safety instructions related to working in hot weather and appropriate responses to heat-related illnesses.
  • Gradually build up a tolerance to working in the heat. If a person has a severely low tolerance to heat, that person may need to perform tasks that limit exposure to the heat.
  • Certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) can increase the risk of heat stress, such as protective suiting. Schedule jobs that require PPE during cooler times of the day.
  • Recognize the conditions that can affect body heat such as fever, physically strenuous work, and even time of day (for example, body temperature is higher in late afternoons).
  • Talk to your physician if you have a chronic health condition or disability (e.g., spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis) before working in the heat.

View the U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers video below to learn about the risk of heat-related illnesses for outdoor workers.

 

Additional Resources:

Beat the Heat by Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH)

Heat Illness and Agriculture by Penn State Extension

Heat Illness Prevention: Training Materials for Educators by Pacific Northwest Ag Safety and Health (PNASH)

 

Use the following format to cite this article:

Heat-related illnesses and agricultural producers. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62261/heat-related-illnesses-and-agricultural-producers.

 

Sources

 

Heat stress. (2011). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

Jepsen, S.D., McGuire, K. & Poland, D. (2011) Secondary injury prevention: Heat stress. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-981.4-10.

Murphy, D. (n.d.). Heat illness and agriculture. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Science Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/heat-illness-and-agriculture.

Porth, C.M. (2010). Pathophysiology, 8th ed. Lippincott-Williams.

Protecting workers from the effects of heat. (2011). Occupational Safety and Health Administration Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/heat_stress.pdf.

 

Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu      
Karen Funkenbusch – University of Missouri – funkenbuschk@missouri.edu
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired)
Carla Wilhite, University of New Mexico – CWilhite@salud.unm.edu
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center – aaron.yoder@unmc.edu