Two types of procession caterpillars were classified as harmful to health in a decree published on April 27. In case of contact with humans or pets, their hair can trigger a violent reaction to urticaria.
They are small, hairy insects whose hairs are embedded in the skin. On April 27, a government decree classified two types of procession caterpillars, pine and oak type, as harmful to human health. And for good reason. Between January 2012 and December 2019, the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Occupational Health identified 1,274 cases of affected people.
“They have hives that will bleed, so there is no need for direct contact. Like little arrows, they will lodge in the skin. This causes red spots and hives, and sometimes it can affect the eyes,” analyzed Professor Marie Sylvie Doutre, dermatologist at Purdue University Hospital and member of French Society of Dermatology.
The caterpillar season is currently in full swing, marked by the moment they leave the trees, where they are housed in white cocoons conspicuous on the branches, to flee to the ground. Marie-Sylvie Doutre returns to BFMTV.com about what actions should be taken if contact with this species.
• To protect yourself, wear long clothes
The best protection is prevention. While procession caterpillars are dangerous as they migrate, it is important to dress well when hiking in the woods or even in the park. Once the larvae reach the ground, they move in a long line in the form of a procession, hence the name.
Marie-Sylvie Doughty advises, “You have to wear shirts, pants, and closed shoes, and don’t go out in slippers! And when you come home, you have to wash them and then put them in the washer and dryer.”
Similarly, the specialist recalls that in the southeastern regions, some people prefer not to dry their clothes outside, fearing that the wind will blow and the famous urticaria hair will be deposited by the larvae.
• Antihistamines and cortisone cream
Despite these precautions, if you come into contact with the caterpillar, you risk developing hives and, in some cases, an eye infection. How do you act in this kind of situation?
First, it is important to stress that in the vast majority of cases, these types of symptoms, while annoying, are not dangerous, and go away after a few hours or even a day. To calm the itch, Marie-Sylvie Doughty mentioned taking antihistamines and using cortisone creams.
Medical advice is not systematically necessary. However, if symptoms persist, or in case of contact with the eyes, but also if respiratory disorders appear, a consultation is recommended. In very rare cases, the affected person may develop anaphylactic shock.
• Watch out for animals and children
Adults are not the most vulnerable people. On the other hand, children and pets, especially dogs and cats, may develop more severe symptoms because they are more likely to come into direct contact with the larvae. A dog or cat smells the insect or touches it with a child’s paw by holding it with bare hands.
“Children who touch the larvae and then rub their eyes, it may be necessary to consult an ophthalmologist to remove hair from children’s eyes,” warns Marie-Sylvie Daughtry.
As for dogs brought in to sniff or lick the larvae, there, too, they can develop a significant allergic reaction, even anaphylactic shock. It is advised to consult a veterinarian immediately.
• Expanded presence in the region
Advice that is more objective since the field of activity of the larval larvae now extends to the entire area. “Even in the gardens around Paris,” confirms Marie-Sylvie Daughtry. Because? Global Warming.
“I did a survey about ten years ago. At that time, the area of work of the marching larvae was increasing,” she says.