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How to protect yourself from browntail moths this fall

browntail moth pic.jpg
Murray Carpenter
Maine Public
A browntail moth caterpillar, which can cause intense itching and discomfort in some people.

State officials are urging Mainers to take precautions this fall from browntail moths, which have tiny hairs that can react with the skin and cause rashes and breathing problems.

People in all 16 counties are at some risk of exposure, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Maine Forest Service.

Browntail moths grow and shed these hairs from April to late June or early July. But state officials say those hairs remain toxic in the environment for up to three years. And they blow around during fall mowing and leaf-raking season.

State officials recommend doing yardwork when leaves are wet to prevent the browntail hairs from becoming airborne.

Avoid hanging laundry outside where the browntail hairs can cling to clothing.

Other precautions include wearing long sleeves, a face covering and goggles when outside, and taking extra caution when bringing firewood or other items indoors.