If you’re a farmer or rancher, you’ve likely got a lot on your mind and plenty of tasks on your plate as the weather warms up and you head into planting season. One of the most important things you can do though is make sure you’re in good health. As someone who works in the elements, you need to give your body extra care and attention. Schedule a routine physical with your primary care physician, but run through this checklist beforehand to see if you’ve got any concerns you’d like to address at your appointment.

Skin

Farmers and ranchers have the joy of working in the great outdoors, but unfortunately that increases one’s risk for developing skin cancer. You can take measures to reduce UV exposure by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen. You’ve likely been bundled up all winter, so take a moment this spring to examine your skin for any new moles or growths and review existing ones for the ABCDEs of melanoma. These are all warning signs you need to get checked out. Talk to your dermatologist or primary care physician about any herbicides or pesticides you are exposed to because they pose a skin cancer risk, as well.

Lungs

Along with all the fresh air, farmers and ranchers also breathe in a lot of irritants from exposure to animals, chemicals and agricultural dust. Long-term, this can lead to respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD and even lung cancer. You can protect your airways by wearing proper facial masks when necessary. In the winter and early spring, flu and cold season runs rampant, both of which could give you a cough. But take notice and talk to your doctor if a cough persists or you have unexplained shortness of breath.

Muscles and Joints

You’re no stranger to hard work, and that’s why you might ignore an ache or pain and soldier on. But if you’ve had a nagging soreness somewhere in your body this winter, it might be time to get it checked out. More work this spring and summer could aggravate it and sideline you when it’s least convenient. Talk to your primary care physician about any discomfort, and he or she can recommend a course of action that will keep you in action.

Eyes

How are your peepers? Have you noticed yourself squinting lately or holding the newspaper a little closer to your face? It might be time for an eye exam. You depend on your eyes to operate machinery safely and to run your business, so they shouldn’t be forgotten. Repeated eye strain could lead to headaches and other discomfort.

Ears

Some of the loudest noises on the farm or ranch include pig squeals, grain equipment, tractors and chainsaws. If you’re around these sounds, you could be at risk for premature hearing loss. Use ear protection when necessary. If you’re finding yourself straining to hear people’s natural speaking voices, you might be due for a hearing test this spring.

Mental Health

When your livelihood depends on factors that are out of your control, like the weather, the economy and more, life can get stressful. The harsh realities of farming and ranching can bring on serious anxiety and depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that agricultural workers have the highest rate of suicide over any other occupation. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, seek help from a mental health professional in your community immediately. At any time, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

 

Your farm’s health is important, too. Be sure to chat with your Farm Bureau agent to make sure your farm or ranch are in tip-top shape year-round.