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Browntail moth hairs remain toxic and can turn up during fall yardwork CDC warns

Even though the season has ended their hairs are still in the environment and can remain toxic for one to three years.

MAINE, Maine — Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding Mainers to look out for the pesky browntail moth as they do yard work this fall. 

The CDC along with Maine Forest Service (MFS), and 211 want Mainers to be aware that the hairs of the browntail moth can get stirred up during fall yardwork and cause serious skin irritation similar to poison ivy. 

In more extreme cases hairs from the browntail moth can also cause trouble breathing and other respiratory problems. 

Even though the moth's season has ended - they are active from April to late June and early July  - thier hairs are still in the environment and can remain toxic for one to three, according to the CDC. 

The hairs can lose toxicity over time. 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 result in skin and breathing problems, warns the Maine CDC.

To protect yourself from browntail moth hairs while working outdoors the Maine CDC recommends the following:

  • A long-sleeve shirt
  • Long pants
  • Goggles
  • A dust mask/respirator
  • A hat
  • A disposable coverall
  • Rake or mow when the ground is wet to prevent hairs from becoming airborne.
  • Cover your face and tightly secure clothing around the neck, wrists, and ankles.
  • Do not rake, mow the lawn, or use leaf blowers on dry days.
  • Use pre-contact poison ivy wipes to help reduce hairs sticking into exposed skin.
  • Take extra care when working under decks or in other areas that are sheltered from the rain.

The CDC says most people affected by browntail moth hairs develop localized rashes that last a few hours or up to several days. For some, the rash can be severe and last for weeks and the CDC says there is no specific treatment for the rash or breathing problems caused by browntail moth hairs. 

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