Beware of the pine processionary caterpillar
The pine processionary caterpillar goes through 5 stages of growth. In the period from January to May, the caterpillars that reached full development and are in the 5th stage, leave the nests and go in procession, hence the name – Processionary - to the ground where they are buried to move to the next phase.
As they move, the caterpillars release thousands of their stinging hairs, increasing the possibility of intoxication of a person or animal that meets them. The hairs act like needles, injecting toxic substances into the skin or mucous membranes. Signs and symptoms resulting from contact with the stinging hairs result may be allergic reaction whose severity depends on the intensity of the exposure and the sensitivity of each:
Hives / skin irritations: usually burning, itching and red spots on the skin.
Eyes irritation: red, swollen, itchy eyes.
Respiratory tract alterations: difficulty in breathing.
Symptoms may appear a few minutes or hours after contact and persist for several hours or days. The pine caterpillar also affects domestic animals, so if you have a pet and notice some change (usually a change in the color of the tongue), go to the vet. Take it easy on all the symptoms of allergy! Learn how to proceed:
Symptoms are usually transient (less than 24 hours) The treatment depends on the intensity of the symptoms, but it is recommended:
Skin / eye wash with running water;
Removal of stinging hairs that may have adhered to the skin (with an adhesive for instance);
Removal of clothing that will have to be washed at a temperature higher than 60°C
Local application of a corticoid-based ointment;
Administration of oral antihistamine.
In the case of contact with the eyes you should always be seen by an ophthalmologist. A more intense allergic reaction should be made to the emergency department. To minimize the risk that the pine processionary caterpillar represents, it is very important to carry out prevention treatments during the year. You can read more about it here.