Brown moth hairs pose a risk for fall outdoor activities

MAINE, September 20 – Back to the news.

Brown moth hairs pose a risk for fall outdoor activities

September 20, 2022
Personal services

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

The hairs of the brown moth caterpillars can be restless during fall gardening. These tiny hairs can cause a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. They can also cause breathing difficulties and other breathing problems. Residents of Maine’s 16 counties are at some risk of exposure to brown moth hairs.

Brown tail 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 fly through the air and fall onto leaves and brush. Mowing, raking, sweeping and other activities can cause hair to fly and cause skin and breathing problems.

Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that lasts from a few hours to several days. In some people, the rash can be severe and last for weeks. The hairs can also cause breathing difficulties in some people, which can lead to respiratory distress. Treatment for rashes or respiratory problems caused by brown moth hairs focuses on relieving symptoms.

To reduce exposure to brown moth hairs when working outdoors:

  • If possible, do yard work when the leaves are wet to prevent the hairs from becoming airborne.
    • Do not rake, use leaf blowers or mow the lawn in dry weather.
    • Do not dry laundry outdoors where hair can catch on clothes.
  • Cover your face and any exposed skin by wearing: a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, goggles, a respirator/dust mask, a hat, and disposable coveralls.
    • Secure clothing around the neck, wrists and ankles.
  • Apply poison ivy wipes before contact to help reduce hair sticking to exposed skin.
  • Take a cool shower to wash away dead hair.
  • Change clothes after outdoor activities.
  • Use extra caution when bringing items stored outdoors, such as firewood, or when working in rain-sheltered areas, such as under bridges.

For more information: