Release date: 12 April 2019
With the Easter holidays upon us and the promise of spring in the air, many of us will be venturing outdoors to explore our beautiful countryside.
Many farms in West Sussex are already welcoming visitors through their gates with the arrival of the spring lambing season.
As well as allowing youngsters the chance to meet the newly arrived lambs, this is a great opportunity to learn about our countryside and the environment. And farm visits are a fun, educational day out for children, and many parents enjoy seeing their children discover the delights of meeting young farm animals.
But visiting a farm carries a small risk of catching infection from animals or the environment. Families shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to experience life on a working farm, as there are some very simple steps they can take to ensure they don’t come home with any unwanted mementos of the day, such as E.coli or Cryptosporidium.
Farms follow an industry code on preventing ill health from animal contact, but parents and teachers can reduce the risk of children picking up an infection by keeping an eye on children throughout the visit, and make sure they wash their hands properly.
Anna Raleigh, West Sussex County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Getting out and about in our beautiful countryside is such an important part of a child’s development, and we would not for a minute want to discourage anyone from missing out on the opportunity to meet some of the new arrivals on our farms.
“But equally we do not want people, especially youngsters, to fall ill as a result of not washing their hands properly after touching the animals or their enclosures.
“There are some very easy steps to follow to ensure you and your family stay safe on a farm visit.”
Public Health England has issued the following advice to help families stay safe:
• supervising children throughout the visit, especially hand washing
• following farm instructions on routes to take around the farm, visiting the animals, where to eat and drink, and when to wash hands
• not getting in the animal pens, picking things up off the floor, or kissing the animals
• using the farm’s hand washing stations where hot/cold or warm running water with soap and hand drying facilities are available. Antibacterial wipes/gels are not a substitute for hand washing as they do not remove the germs found on farms
• always washing hands before eating or drinking, after visiting the animals and after changing footwear/clothes
• eating food and drink in picnic areas or cafes only
• wearing washable footwear which can be changed and cleaned at the end of the visit
• washing dirty clothes and footwear
• washing pushchair wheels after the visit
More information on protecting you and your family from picking up infections during lambing season can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/farm-visits-avoiding-infection