If you live in Maine, you’re most likely familiar with browntail moths and the problems they bring; deforestation, a painful rash, and respiratory issues. Since we compound medications that help with pain and itching from the rash, we hear a lot of patient stories. We are in the unique position of being able to gauge, to a certain extent, the community health impact. We’d like to share some things we’ve learned over the years.
Weather Plays a Role
We saw the highest number of patients following dry and windy weekends. That made 2018 a banner year for rashes. Activity dropped significantly in 2019. What was the difference? Rain and cold. Although field research indicated an increased infestation in 2019, May and June were unseasonably cold and damp. In some areas, it caused a fungus to grow, which killed the caterpillars.
Rain also means that the toxic hairs aren’t airborne, and people aren’t outside as much. The good news? NOAA predicts a slightly higher than average rainfall this spring. Hopefully, this will keep the hair activity in check and exposure to a minimum.
You Must Take Precautions
Although not everyone reacts to the toxins, it’s best to take precautions. All it takes is a few hairs to become embedded for the toxins to do their thing. There are thousands of hairs in the air when the conditions are right, and you don’t often see them. Here are some recommendations:
- Avoid infested areas. If you’re on a walk and see caterpillars on the ground, leave and find another place to walk.
- Cover exposed skin when riding in open-air vehicles and on motorcycles. If you can, avoid traveling through infested areas altogether.
- Do not line dry clothes outside.
- Rinse off outdoor furniture before using them.
- Do yard work on damp days or spray areas where you’re working.
- Blow window fans outward instead of inward.
- Take a cool shower after spending time in infested areas.
- Pat your skin with duct tape to remove any hairs that may have embedded.
There is no “cure” for the rash but over-the-counter creams like hydrocortisone, diphenhydramine with zinc acetate, or benzocaine may help reduce pain and itching. For respiratory issues, try gargling with liquid diphenhydramine (Benadryl). If you experience a more severe reaction, visit your doctor or urgent care facility. For information on our prescription-strength compounded solution visit www.coastalpharmacyandwellness.com/browntail-moth-rash-relief.