When a person thinks of a caterpillar, the last thing they generally think of is pain. They think of butterflys, kid’s cartoons, or maybe even a rich childhood memory of watching them amble across the walkway. The truth is, some caterpillars are quite dangerous and can deliver a nasty sting. Not all caterpillars are dangerous in this way, but enough species are that you should be aware of them and what to do if you are stung.
The caterpillar stings with the many hairs that cover their bodies. These hairs can be excruciatingly painful and are very hard to remove at times. The easiest and safest way to remove this stinging hairs is to use adhesive tape to lift them gently from the skin. Masking tape has been known to be highly effective as well.
The sting of a caterpillar is actually a delivery of venom. This is similar in nature to the bee, or other stinging insects. As such, people can have varying degrees of reactions to this venom. Some people barely even get a red rash, and other people have been known to go into shock. The degree of venom, the amount injected and mostly the person’s sensitivity to the venom all play a part in determing the reaction. Each person is different, and as such must be treated differently.
The general rule is to wash the affected region well with soap and water. In doing so, you will wash away left over traces of venom and keep the area safer from potential infection. The soap should be a base brand without any fragrances added ideally. If you have none of this available, it is still beneficial to use water to rinse out the sting site.
When you are stung by a caterpillar, it is very common to have some swelling and pain. The best way to ease a caterpillar sting and reduce swelling is to ice the area. This should be done in short time periods with moments of rest in between to allow the site to breathe. If swelling and pain is severe, then you need to get to a doctor to ensure you are not having a severe allergic reaction. The same goes for any problems breathing, a feeling like your windpipe is closing, or if you begin vomiting. All of these are potential signs of a serious reaction.
Just like with bee stings, taking Benadryl or other over the counter medications can be helpful. The main thing is to understand that you are dealing with a venom based invasion of your body. Venom spreads when you panic much faster, so remaining calm and relaxed is always a good thing. Never allow the victim or yourself to become afraid or stressed. Keep things nice and calm and proceed to the doctor if the situation is serious.
Another horrible symptom of a caterpillar sting is severe itching. Ironically, the caterpillar sting gets worse when you itch it. This horrible circle of itching will only get worse if you do not stop itching so keep those hands off the sting site.
Technically, the caterpillar does not really sting. They do not have the stinging barb of others such as the bee, so they deliver the venom through various hairs and barbs that cover their body. This is why the hair removal mentioned above is so important. If you leave the hairs then the venom and reaction will only get worse.
The best thing about caterpillar stings are that they are easily avoided. The only way you can really get stung by a caterpillar is if you pick one up, or try to remove one from your person with your bare hands. Occasionally one might fall onto you from a tree. Regardless, if you remain calm and remove the caterpillar with a stick or other object, then you have virtually no chance of being stung. The caterpillar has no interest in harming you, so you simply need to remain calm and dispose of the caterpillar carefully.