There have been many reports of children getting rashes from Gypsy moth caterpillars in the recent weeks. Is it dangerous? What are the symptoms and what should you do if you think your child has contracted it? We break down the fast facts to these questions and more below.
- This rash is typically contracted through direct contact with the gypsy caterpillar or moth (pictured below). If they are found in high numbers, however, their setae (tiny hairs) can travel through the wind or fabric (such as towels, clothing, etc.) causing the same reaction. Additionally, their setae can be found in soil, tree bark, and silk cocoons causing reactions months after.
- Symptoms include mild to moderate stinging or pain accompanied by welts, vesicles (small, fluid-filled sacs), raised red bumps, and patches of red, scaly skin.
- These symptoms appear within minutes or hours after contact and last anywhere from one to several days.
- Contact with mucous membranes (for example, a child putting a caterpillar in their mouth) can cause more serious reactions such as shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, difficulty swallowing, and hay fever.
- Treatment typically only requires the removal of visible embedded setae. Any that can’t be removed loosen themselves over the next several days.
- Pain from skin reactions usually subsides within a few hours but can also be medicated with over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
If you think your child has come into contact with Gypsy Moth setae try to remove the hairs as best you can and treat with pain relievers as needed. If any of the more serious side effects start to occur, like shortness of breath, contact your doctor.
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My arms are still itchy 2 weeks later, what can I do?
If you have a rash or itch that persists, you should contact your primary care provider.
I had no idea the trouble these pesky caterpillars cause until I fell victim to their hairs. I must have encountered one or more on my feet. The blisters are so itchy and painful I can hardly walk and can find no relief from it.
The county should be spraying for these to eradicate this invasive species. The damage to the trees and peoples lives is a tragedy.
I react worse to Gypsy moth rash than mosquito bites. I’ve found that antihistamines work well to reduce the symptoms of the Gypsy moth rash. You can also use Afterbite or topical benedryl (marketed for kids, but also works on adults), to stop the itching.
It’s a disgrace if our area was not treated for this apalling pest and if not even warned of this! The infestation is most unpleasant and is injuring people! In addition they’ve decimated my expensive plants two years in a row! We’ve just moved here, the water pressure is too low to make my faucets work properly upstairs and there’s a weird smell outdoors which lingers to our clothes and is most noticeable as soon as someone steps indoors leaving a trail of pong wherever one walks meaning a change of clothes and shower is necessary after only a few minutes outside. Some days there’s nothing, other days you can almost smell it in the air. I feel we are close to finding out what on earth it is, but the cause remains illusive. It’s rather like a stale water smell. As for the pesky hairs of the Gypsy moth caterpillars, how about sticking tape to your arm, leg etc and peeling it off like a good ‘waxing’. Try duct tape and pull ’em out! Good luck! Send your receipts with a covering letter as a personal claim to your municipality who should have sprayed preventatively prior to this impact to our community.
Thank you for reading.