Mum shares an urgent warning: “ATTN PARENTS! Watch out for those cute fuzzy orange and black caterpillars!”
Krystal Dawn Pyne shared a warning on her Facebook page when she found herself in hospital with her 8-month-old daughter after she put a caterpillar in her mouth.
“At 9 a.m. my 3 year old son, my 8-month-old daughter and myself were hanging out on our back deck. My daughter was sitting eating an arrowroot cookie and had just finished it when all of the sudden she started screaming. It was about time for her morning nap and I figured she must just be hungry and/or tired so I made her a bottle. She didn’t want anything to do with it and she was basically inconsolable at this point. As I’m trying to figure out what is wrong with her, she had her mouth open while crying and I noticed the inside of her mouth had some blackness to it. I figured she maybe got a bug in her mouth so I grabbed a wet cloth to wipe the inside of her mouth, but it wasn’t wiping off and the black remained. I started panicking because at closer look it almost resembled an electrical burn. I knew that it wasn’t that, just didn’t quite know how to describe it since it was like nothing I’ve seen before. I was sitting right beside her when it happened so it all didn’t make sense to me.
“I decided to rush down to the hospital so they could see what was going on because I was completely flabbergasted. While in the emergency waiting room a nurse started talking to me saying how her daughter one day was sitting on her stairs sucking on something and she had black all around her mouth. Well turns out she was sucking on a caterpillar. As soon as the nurse mentioned caterpillar I started thinking, I have soooooo many caterpillars around our deck, is it possible that’s what caused it?
“Multiple nurses came to check out her mouth and they all agreed it looked like a burn, which I knew wasn’t possible.
“Finally the doctor came in and as soon as I mention caterpillar to him, he said that is exactly what it Is and all the hairs are stuck to her tongue and the tentacles are fused to her cheek.
“She has to be sedated and have the pieces of caterpillar tentacle, hairs/spines removed from her mouth.
A later updated said: “She did great in surgery, they removed 98% of what was there. Microscopic pieces they couldn’t get were left behind. She is doing much better, eating, and in high spirit. We’re staying in recovery overnight for monitoring and will be released bright and early!”
Aussie caterpillars can be dangerous too
Some Australian caterpillars are armed with stinging hairs, that can cause severe reactions to humans.
Generally, the brightly coloured caterpillars are poisonous; their colour being a reminder to predators about their toxicity.
Their long hairs are brittle and barbed and are designed to pierce skin and not come out. The hairs are coated with proteins that cause an irritating, allergic response. Any hairy or furry caterpillars are probably best avoided as many different species can cause itchy reactions on contact.
There are even a few caterpillars, such as those of cupmoths, that have brittle spines that can pierce the skin and inject venom. Contact with these caterpillars causes a stinging sensation rather than an itch.
To treat irritations as a result of these poisonous caterpillars, remove all affected clothing and apply a piece of adhesive tape to each of the affected areas, then pull the tape off immediately.
This will remove some of the hairs and irritants and reduce the full impact of the irritation. The use of analgesics, creams, antihistamines and lotions with steroids will also assist in relieving the symptoms.
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