October 16, 2018
No mom wants to get a troubling call from her child's day care, and in Lauren Chambers' case, the call was especially eyebrow-raising. The Texas mom was contacted by her 5-year-old Adrie's day care staff after the little girl was stung by what they said was "the most poisonous caterpillar in the United States,” Chambers tells Dallas NBC affiliate KXAS-TV.
According to the outlet, daycare workers believe the woolly looking caterpillar fell from a tree above Adrie as she was playing outside. The staff notified Chambers that her daughter was unable to move her arm after being stung by the caterpillar.
The caterpillar, referred to as an asp or a southern flannel moth caterpillar, has fine hairs and venomous spines that "produce a painful rash or sting" when they come in contact with skin, according to Texas A&M University's Agrilife Extension website. They also can produce "a severe burning sensation and rash." Side effects from a sting include "intense, throbbing pain," along with "headaches, nausea, vomiting, lymphadenopathy, lymphadenitis and sometimes shock or respiratory stress."
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) site, the number of exposures peaks in June-July with a second peak in October.
Treatment of a sting requires the use of adhesive tape to remove the spines that remain on the skin. "Wash the area with soap and water to remove any remaining venom," the AACC notes. "Prompt application of an ice pack and a baking soda poultice should help reduce pain and swelling. Over the counter analgesics appear to be ineffective for reducing pain and headache. Oral administration of antihistamines may help relieve itching and burning following up with topical corticosteroids to reduce intensity of inflammation."
Day care staff removed the spikes from Adrie's arm using tape, and doctors say that's what prevented the little girl from suffering further pain, swelling, and an upset stomach. "They said if that had not happened, it could actually cause her whole body to go numb and start shutting down,” Chambers told KXAS-TV.
While this incident is certainly disturbing and parents may be concerned about their children being at risk for a similar incident, Texas A&M officials say that the caterpillars will likely disappear soon, as they prepare for winter. And when they hatch again as moths in the spring, they no longer have their harmful spines. That said, hopefully Chambers' experience raises awareness around this unnerving insect and the best way to address its sting.