Spring & Summer Safety: Ticks & Browntail Moths

As the weather here in Maine gets nicer, many of us will be able to get out and enjoy more of the great state of Maine with our family and friends. While enjoying the outdoors, be safe by being aware of deer ticks and the brown-tailed caterpillar during the spring & summer months.  

Ticks can transmit both Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis.  The best way to avoid these diseases is to be aware of the risk of tick bites and to act accordingly. Ticks are more active in the warmer seasons and if you are planning to be out in the woods, hiking or just working in your yard:

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants that are tight around the wrist, ankle, and neck. Dressing in light colors makes it easier to spot dark ticks on your clothing.
  • Stay on hiking trails and avoid vegetation along path edges.
  • Use a repellent containing DEET according to label directions – particularly on shoes, socks, and pant legs.  Avoid applying high-concentration of products to the skin, especially on children.
  • Other repellents are essential oils, lavender, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, cedar, rose geranium and citrus. Also try soaps and shampoos with these fragrances.
  • Consult your veterinarian about tick repellents for your pets.
  • Inspect yourself, your clothing, your children, your companion, and your pets for ticks when you return indoors.  
  • Ticks often attach in body folds, behind ears, and in the hair. 
  • To remove ticks, use a fine-tipped tweezer or tick removal tool, grasping the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Make sure all parts of the tick have been removed.
  • Apply antiseptic to the bit and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Consult a physician if you remove an engorged tick and save it for identification in a small vial of alcohol.

From three to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern. The rash (erythema migrans) expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches (30 centimeters) across.  Fortunately, not all ticks carry Lyme disease, and the ones that do may not transmit disease-causing bacteria before you discover and remove them.  There are many different ticks, but in Maine, the deer tick is known to spread the disease which may cause joint pain, fatigue and neurological problems if left untreated.   

The good news is that deer ticks usually do not transmit Lyme bacteria right away. According to the Maine Medical Center Research Institute, few people are infected before the tick has been feeding for 36 hours. Diagnosed in early stages, both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are easily and effectively treated. However, if unrecognized and untreated, they may progress to cause arthritis and neurological problems.  

Click here for pictures of the types of ticks: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsudbury.ma.us%2Femmcp%2Fticks%2F&psig=AOvVaw0HSvw1aJ2G4Q3nxUgjEvns&ust=1623173516521000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCPiQndiGhvECFQAAAAAdAAAAABAJ

The Browntail moth is an invasive species found only on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod.  The hairs of the larvae cause a rash similar to poison ivy and can also cause respiratory distress in sensitive individuals. The hairs persist for a number of years and can continue to cause problems when mowing or other activities stir them up. People may develop dermatitis from direct contact with the caterpillar or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs. The hairs become airborne from either being dislodged from the living or dead caterpillar or they come from cast skins with the caterpillar molts.  Some people 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. Caterpillars are active from April to late June.  

Close-up view of Browntail moth caterpillar on a leaf

Adult Browntail moth

Learn more about tick bite prevention and how to avoid an allergic reaction from the brown-tailed moth at www.maine.gov/dhhs/vectorborne

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