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Mid coast family catches brown-tail moth caterpillar rash at beach

BRUNSWICK (WGME) -- The brown-tail moth is back, causing irritating rashes that can even be dangerous for some people.

Six-year-old Ella Banfield is still not feeling well, but at least the rash she had is almost gone.

It was everywhere, her mom Jessica said. In her ears, in her scalp, all up her neck, even her face was covered in it.

It all started when the Banfield's went to Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick for a family cookout Sunday.

Everyone started dropping like flies with the rash, Banfield said.

She tells CBS13 News ten of her family members ended up with a rash from brown-tail moth caterpillars.

They were on the trees, in trash cans, everywhere, she said.

It took just a few hours for things to go terribly wrong for Ella, who has asthma.

In the morning, she was screaming, she couldn't breathe, she itched everywhere, Banfield said.

Doctor Jay Mullen who works in the emergency department at Maines Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick says the rash can impact people differently.

Some people have no effect, some people have severe symptoms from it, Dr. Mullen said.

Dr. Mullen says July is the worst time of year for the rash, because this is when the brown-tail caterpillar sheds its poisonous hairs to become a moth.

Dr. Mullen says those hairs can end up anywhere.

After a windy day, they'll settle on lawn furniture, and they'll get exposed into the air, he explained.

Dr. Mullen says Mid Coast Hospital's walk-in clinics are seeing a spike in the number of cases this year compared to last.

Pati Crooker who owns Thomas Point Beach says a few weeks ago the park had to shut down because a group of school kids caught the rash.

I was shocked, Crooker said. We immediately closed the place down and called our tree expert and he was here the very next morning spraying this whole park out.

Dr. Mullen says he's seen cases from Richmond to Freeport.

Still, the Banfield's want warning signs at Thomas Point Beach.

Crooker says that's not going to happen, but that she'll continue keeping a close eye on the caterpillars in her park.

We really take it seriously, she said. Were here to have a safe place and to make it a healthy, family environment.

The caterpillar hairs settle like dust that you can't see, so Dr. Mullen says the best way to avoid getting the rash is to wipe off all picnic tables and lawn furniture before sitting down.

If you do get the rash, Dr. Mullen says ice, Benadryl, and hydrocortisone should help you feel better.

If it doesnt go away on its own in a few days, call your doctor.