Advice for good hygiene when visiting a farm, animal attraction or children’s petting zoo, including infection avoidance for pregnant women.

When to seek medical advice

If anyone is sick or has diarrhoea within two weeks after a farm visit contact your doctor or call NHS 111 as soon as possible. If anyone, particularly a young child, has bloody diarrhoea seek immediate emergency medical attention. Please also inform environmental health using the information on this page.

If you are bitten by an animal seek medical advice immediately at NHS 111, your GP surgery, or your local walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

You can find your local walk-centre on the NHS website as well as your local minor injuries unit on the NHS website.

You can also see more information about infections caused by animal bites on the NHS website


Visiting a farm, animal attraction or petting zoo is lots of fun, but it's important to remember that animals can carry a number of infections that can be harmful to people. Common types of illness include infection with cryptosporidium parvum, E.coli O157 and salmonella. 

All of these bacteria live in the gut of the animals. Infections are caused either by touching animals in the petting and feeding areas, or by coming into contact with animal droppings on contaminated surfaces around the farm. These harmful bacteria can get accidentally passed to your mouth by putting hands on faces or fingers in mouths before washing them thoroughly. It only takes a small number of the bacteria to cause infection.

Advice on visiting a farm safely

Do  Do not
Do check that cuts, grazes etc. on children's hands are covered with waterproof dressings. Do not put hands on faces or fingers in mouths while petting animals or walking round the farm.

Do wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water and dry with paper towels:

  • after you have touched animals, fences or other surfaces in animal areas
  • before eating or drinking
Do not use handwipes instead of washing hands with liquid soap and warm water. Handwipes do not remove E.coli O157 in dirt.
Do remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become soiled and clean pushchair wheels. Then wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water and dry with paper towels. Do not eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the farm. This includes not eating sweets, crisps or chewing gum.
Do supervise children closely to ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly. Do not kiss farm animals or allow children to put their faces close to animals.
Do eat and drink in picnic areas or cafés only. Do not eat anything that has fallen on the floor.
Do avoid contact with sheep and lambs while pregnant (see below). Do not taste or eat any animal foods or unpasteurised produce, such as milk or cheese.

Is it safe to visit a farm while pregnant?

If you are pregnant, you may put yourself and their unborn baby at risk of infection if you come into close contact with sheep that have recently given birth, newborn lambs, or other newborn farm animals or new mother animals such as cows or goats. Infections can happen at any time of year, not just in the spring.

Although the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with an infected animal is usually extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take precautions.

To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women should:

  • not help ewes, cows or goats to give birth
  • not milk ewes
  • avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs, calves or kids or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (such as bedding) contaminated by such birth products
  • ensure contacts or partners who have attended lambing ewes or other animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and perform good hand hygiene to remove any potential contamination
  • avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths. Potentially contaminated clothing should be washed separately from other clothing and will be safe to handle after being washed at the highest temperature recommended by the manufacturer

More frequently asked questions

If anyone is sick or has diarrhoea within two weeks after a farm visit contact your doctor or call NHS 111 as soon as possible. If anyone, particularly a young child has bloody diarrhoea, seek immediate emergency medical attention.

We are interested to know if you experience sickness and/or diarrhoea after visiting a farm as this may help us to identify problems early, and take steps to prevent more people becoming ill.

If you or a friend or relative becomes ill after visiting a farm or petting zoo, you can contact the environmental health team for your local area on the numbers below. It is likely that they will advise you to visit your GP and submit a faecal sample.

You can also contact the environmental health team for your area if you have general concerns about health and safety at pay-to-enter farm attractions. They will be able to investigate, and provide guidance to the premises to improve standards.

Local Authority Area Contact telephone number
City of York Council 01904 551525
Craven District Council 01756 706258
Hambleton District Council 01609 779977
Harrogate Borough Council 01423 500600
Richmondshire District Council 01748 829100
Ryedale District Council 01653 600666
Scarborough Borough Council 01723 232514
Selby District Council 01757 705101

Farmers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms. Farmers should consult their vet about suitable vaccination programmes and other disease control measures.

You can see the control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations on the Health and Safety Executive's website which requires employers to assess risks to health from harmful substances and take steps to prevent or control those risks.

You can also find further information on zoonoses and appropriate control measures on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

The E-Bug website is run by the Health Security Agency and helps teach children about infection control and hygiene.

The Visit My Farm website has useful information for teachers planning school visits to farms and petting zoos.

You can download the "Avoiding infection on farm visits - advice for the public" factsheet from the government website which contains information from the Health Security Agency.