If you’re not a fan of bugs, you might make an exception for a caterpillar. Have you ever picked up a fuzzy little guy to watch him crawl around in your hands? While they look harmless, it turns out there are some caterpillars that can cause a serious rash.
The gypsy moth caterpillar is known for damaging trees. When they are fully grown, they are about 2 inches long and very hairy. They have fiver pairs of blue dots following by six pairs of red dots on their back. They are very unique-looking, but unfortunately they can cause irritation to humans.
Day Kimball Healthcare in Connecticut explained, “NDDH [Northeast District Department of Health] has been receiving numerous calls regarding gypsy moths and reactions from exposure to them.” They released a memo that explained why people are experiencing the reactions.
The memo read, “Gypsy moth larvae (i.e. caterpillars) do not bite. They do have two types of hair (called satae) that they use to defend themselves, which can create a stinging sensation. Reactions to these stinging hairs vary from mild to moderately severe itching with an accompanying rash, similar to contact dematitis.”
The organization explained that the onset is usually noticed within 8-12 hours after contact. After 1-2 days it may become more pronounced. Most rashes or irritation caused by gypsy moths clear up in a few days or up to 2 weeks.
According to the memo, “Delayed hypersensitivity reactions sometimes result in irritation to the eyes, inflammation of the nasal passages, and shortness of breath. This is especially common in the case of airborne hairs of adult gypsy moths, or contact with clothes hanging on outdoor lines when the moth is locally abundant.”
What To Do If You Develop A Rash From A Gypsy Moth
These creatures are popping up everywhere this time of year. If you come in contact with one, don’t panic. Most rashes will clear up within a week or so, but they can be extremely itchy! Wareham Pediatrics in Massachusetts advised an over-the-counter cream such as hydrocortisone to help alleviate the itching. However, some lavender essential oil will work excellently. If you develop a widespread rash or fever, seek medical attention.