You protect your animals from heat stress, and you’re wary about crop conditions in a heat wave, but are you thinking about your own sun and heat protection?
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Farm Medicine Center. Farmers are at a higher risk due to the nature of their work – long hours in the midday sun, all summer long. Sunlight is the major risk for most skin cancers, including melanoma.
Melissa Ploeckelman is an outreach specialist at the National Farm Medicine Center. She says since farmers often don’t have the time to go to doctor’s appointments, they should take preventative measures to avoid skin damage.
Sun Safety Tips
Slip on a shirt
While you’re tempted to take your shirt off or wear a cut off when it’s hot, you should wear a long-sleeve shirt when the sun rays are at full strength in the middle of the day. Especially UV protectant clothing with UPF 50 will better protect you from harmful UV rays.
Yes, it can feel greasy, but it’s one of the best preventative tools against skin cancer. Ploeckelman says it takes 1 tablespoon of sunscreen per large body part. Use a lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and broad-spectrum over exposed skin. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.
wear a hat
You may already wear a baseball cap outside, but that’s not the best option. A sun-safe hat has a wide brim of four inches that goes all the way around the crown of your head, covering your face, ears and neck.
Limit your sun exposure and seek shade when possible, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the UV rays are the strongest.
Protect your eyes by using a wrap-around style sunglass with 99 or higher UV block. Your eyes are susceptible to sunburn and sun-related vision problems such as cataracts.
Follow the ABCs of skin cancer
Monitor your skin for changes, especially around moles or brown spots. Get your spots looked at by a professional if:
● Asymmetry – One half of the mole is different from the other half
● Border – The border of a spot starts to look irregular or scalloped
● Color – The color changes, especially to white, red or blue
● Diameter – A mole grows larger than 6 mm (pencil eraser)
● Evolving – A spot starts to change in size, shape or color
It’s not just skin cancer the National Farm Medicine Center wants you to prevent, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are another health complication to avoid.
Tips to Avoid Heat Exhaustion
A farmer should drink around eight, 8 oz cups of water every hour, Ploeckelman says. She says if you continuously take small drinks throughout the day, it will keep you more hydrated than chugging water, and you won’t have to keep stopping to go to the bathroom.
If heat exhaustion is suspected, move to a cool, shaded place; loosen clothing; and put moist clothes to the forehead, wrists and chest.
Seek medical attention if…
- You or someone you’re with is feeling dizzy
- Acts or speaks differently
- Stopped sweating
- Has dark urine
- Faints or loses consciousness, call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Heatstroke must be treated as a life-threatening emergency.
It’s not only important to keep your farm protected, but yourself too. Listen to your body and be safe in the summer heat. Contact a local Rural Mutual agent to protect your farm.