An unusual inflammation of the pinna has been reported to occur in some sheep farmers at the time of lambing.
To explore the prevalence of this disorder and its possible causal associations.
While on attachment to sheep farms during lambing, veterinary students used a standardised questionnaire to interview a sample of farmers about their work, and about symptoms of skin inflammation in their hands, face and ears.
Interviews were completed by 76 (67%) of the farmers approached. Among 74 farmers who had carried out lambing, three (4%, 95% CI 1% to 11%) had experienced temporally related ear symptoms, all on multiple occasions. No farmers with ear symptoms had ever been involved in calving or farrowing, and no ear symptoms were reported in relation to shearing or dipping sheep. There was also an excess of hand symptoms related to lambing outdoors (24% of those who had done such work) and indoors (also 24%), compared with other farming activities.
Our findings suggest that temporally related ear inflammation occurs in at least 1% of farmers who carry out lambing, but not in association with the other farming activities investigated. Lambing appears to be associated also with hand inflammation, but the pathology may differ from that in the pinna.
Keywords: Farming, sheep, lambing, ear, hand, skin, inflammation