After rushing her 5-year-old daughter to the hospital, Texas mother Lauren Chambers is warning parents to watch out for a toxic caterpillar that can inflict some serious damage.
Chambers said that her daughter, Adrie, was at daycare playing under a tree when her arm began to feel like it was burning until she couldn’t move it. Chambers received a phone call from the daycare, hearing words that left her stunned and concerned.
“They said that she had been stung by the most poisonous caterpillar in the United States,” Chambers told KXAS-TV.
Adrie had been stung by a Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar, commonly referred to as an asp. Chambers said she’d never even heard of the caterpillar or its danger until Adrie was stung.
The fuzzy looking caterpillar has tiny, venomous spines tucked away under its hair. In Adrie’s case, the venom from the sting caused side effects so intense, she was hospitalized.
Adrie felt a burning sensation flow through her arm as the area around the sting began to swell. Other side effects included an upset stomach.
Michael Merchant, an entomologist with Texas A&M University, says the venom affects people differently, but generally causes painful burning or numbing sensations that often last up to 12 hours.
“Different people react in different ways, feeling pain in different parts of the body,” Merchant said.
“I had one friend who actually felt like he was having some heart trouble or something after he got stung. So it’s not a pleasant experience.”
Doctors told Chambers that Adrie’s reaction was likely minimized thanks to the quick thinking of her teacher, who removed the spines using tape.
“They said if that had not happened, it could actually cause her whole body to go numb and start shutting down,” said Chambers.
Merchant said he’s seen an uptick in reported encounters with the asp this season, though he isn’t sure why. But relief is on the horizon, he said, with the onset of cooler weather.
As winter makes its way through the region, the caterpillars should start busying themselves building cocoons, Merchant said. This means less activity in the treetops, lowering the risk for a sting.
While a woolly looking caterpillar might look harmless enough, parents should teach their kids not to touch them.
Thankfully, Adrie has made a full recovery and is back home with her family.
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