Brown Tail Moth Series: Preparing for the Invasion

Last year, we saw the caterpillars and then the furry white moths. Some of us experienced an itchy red bumpy rash and others a cough with chest congestion. Some people are more sensitive to the irritant than others. Pets may transport the barbed hairs which are the irritants into the house or we might bring them inside on our clothing.

The Maine CDC website says: “The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny poisonous hairs that cause dermatitis similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals...Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that will last for a few hours up to several days but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks. The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the hairs and a physical irritation as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs can be serious.”

You can find a brochure and a fact sheet here.

An ounce of prevention...During June and July when the hairs are more prevalent, keep the dog from rolling on the ground then jumping on the furniture. When you come in from walking in the woods take a cool shower and wash those clothes. If raking or sweeping stirs up the leaves that may have hairs in them wear a mask to avoid inhaling them. Wear long sleeves and pants of tightly woven fabric so the barbed hairs don’t get stuck in the clothes. On the internal side of preparation be sure to stay well hydrated and eat a balanced diet.

If you develop the rash or cough see your PCP or Acupuncturist for treatment. Last year a mixture of OTC remedies from local providers helped many to cope with the itching.

In East Asian Medicine you and your particular individual reaction are treated rather than using a one size fits all strategy. Acupuncturists have an arsenal of medicinal herbs and treatment strategies to deal with different reactions to the irritants. East Asian Medicine describes the body in environmental terms. “External Wind” is used to describe a condition that arrives suddenly, moves about, changes rapidly and produces itching or anxiety. It often carries with it other environmental pathogens such as heat, cold, damp or dryness. Your Acupuncturist can prescribe topical and internal herbal formulas to alleviate itching and relieve any contributing factors that are present.

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This blog series is written by Cleo Wolf L.Ac. Cleo is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and a NCCAOM Diplomate of Oriental Medicine at Jade Integrated Health in Brunswick and Portland

Check out Cleo’s full bio here!