Caterpillar sends tots to emergency room
Caterpillars may be cute and fuzzy, however, the Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar, which is apparently having a good year, is better left alone. A Stanstead mother found this out the hard way when her two daughters, aged three and six, developed widespread rashes soon after handling one of the caterpillars. “We were at my cousin’s in Newport for a BBQ when I saw my youngest holding a white caterpillar with a black stripe down its back. The next morning both my daughters had rashes from their knees to their waists, on the chest area and under the arms. My six year-old also found the rash itchy,” explained Melissa Middleton. Not taking any chances especially since she is pregnant, Melissa brought her daughters to the Coaticook hospital’s emergency room where they were misdiagnosed as having some kind of parasite. At the time she hadn’t connected the rash to the handling of the caterpillar. “I was told that they had seen six other kids with spots that morning,” added Melissa.
Perhaps not content with the diagnosis, or maybe just a mother’s instinct kicking in, Melissa went to the internet where she, by coincidence, learnt about the seemingly harmless white and black caterpillar, which now had a name, and of its poisonous qualities. “It was the same caterpillar and the description of the reaction to the caterpillar was what had happened to my daughters,” said Melissa.
Familiprix pharmacist Veronique Vaillancourt has also come across the nasty little beast. “When a member of my family touched one they got a reaction not long after so I called Info-Santé and they informed me about the caterpillar. I had never heard of it before last week and have never received anything from Santé Public about it.”
The Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar has hairs that cause trouble, especially the longer black hairs which are hollow tubes and connected to poison glands. After touching the caterpillar, most people will react with a burning, itchy rash. The area affected should be washed with soap and water as soon as possible and ice can be applied to relieve discomfort. People more sensitive may experience swelling and nausea as well and may have to seek medical treatment.