Asthma is a lung condition which causes the air passages (bronchi) of the lungs to become narrow, making it hard to breathe. There may be swelling of the airways, more mucous being produced and spasms of the airways.
Farmers and farm families are more likely to be exposed to organic dusts (from pollens, animal dander, grain, hay) which can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible people.
These dusts can be released when:
- Stock are moved
- Pollens are released from pastures
- Grain is handled.
Asthma attacks can develop over a few minutes or a few days. Farmers can be at greater risk because they may have to travel long distances to get medical treatment for asthma, especially in an emergency.
People with asthma who live or work on a farm should have a personal asthma management plan. Asthma becomes a medical emergency if the person finds it increasingly difficult to breathe, has severe chest tightness, feels distressed and they are sucking in their throat and their ribs are retracting (pulling in). They should always have a weeks supply of medication.