Browntail moth hair pose a risk during fall outdoor activies

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AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), Maine Forest Service (MFS), and 211 Maine remind Maine people and visitors about how to protect themselves from browntail moth hairs this fall.

Hairs from browntail moth caterpillars can get stirred up during fall yard work. These tiny hairs can cause a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. They can also cause trouble breathing and other respiratory problems. People in all 16 Maine counties are at some risk of exposure to browntail moth hairs.

Browntail moth caterpillars grow and shed these hairs from April to late June or early July. The hairs remain toxic in the environment for up to three years. Hairs blow around in the air and fall onto leaves and brush. Mowing, raking, sweeping, and other activities can cause the hairs to become airborne and cause skin and breathing problems.

Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that lasts for a few hours up to several days. In some people, the rash can be severe and last for weeks. Hairs may also cause trouble breathing in some people, which may result in respiratory distress. Treatment for the rash or breathing problems caused by browntail moth hairs focuses on relieving symptoms.

To reduce exposure to browntail moth hairs while working outdoors:

If possible, do yard work when leaves are wet to prevent hairs from becoming airborne.

Do not rake, use leaf blowers, or mow the lawn on dry days.

Do not dry laundry outside where hairs can cling to clothing.

Cover your face and any exposed skin by wearing: a long sleeve shirt, long pants, goggles, a respirator/dust mask, a hat, and a disposable coverall.

Secure clothing around the neck, wrists, and ankles.

Apply pre-contact poison ivy wipes to help reduce hairs sticking into exposed skin.

Take a cool shower to wash off loose hairs.

Change clothes after outdoor activities.

Use extra caution when bringing in items stored outdoors, such as firewood, or working in areas sheltered from the rain, such as under decks.

For more information, contact 211 Maine at 211 (or 1-866-811-5695) or by texting your ZIP code to 898-211. Visit Maine CDC Browntail Moth website, Maine Forest Service Browntail Moth website and Browntail Moth Aerial Survey Dashboard

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