NEW ORLEANS – Furry caterpillars are popping up around Louisiana and doctors say you should steer clear.
The chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center sent out a warning to students and faculty on the downtown New Orleans campus, that one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America is out in full force.
Brian Lobell of River Ridge will never forget the first, or second time, he accidentally pushed up against a little furry thing.
"My whole arm just started kind of swelling up and heart rate accelerated like crazy, and I was telling the guys I was working with, I was just like, 'Man this, I don't feel so good. This thing really hurts,'" remembers Lobell.
It was a puss moth caterpillar, and underneath the fur on top, are venomous spines.
"The spines will actually stick in you and break off and they will continue to envenom you, because the venom contained in the hollow spine is being injected in you," explained Dr. Jim Diaz, Professor and Program Director of LSUHSC Environmental/Occupational Health Sciences.
Dr. Diaz says the caterpillars are out because they love hot weather. And they love to dine on our oak and sycamore tree leaves. If one lands belly down on you, get a stick and flick it off. Touch the back and you'll have a wound that looks like tiny tire tracks.
"You'll feel some pretty intense pain and some people say the pain goes all the way to the bone, and almost feels like a nerve pain," described Dr. Diaz.
"I could feel it, honestly, probably for the next seven hours I can feel it. I was in, like scared, maybe I should go see a doctor, for like an hour," Lobell said.
"It was on the tree and it was just kind of climbing up," said Donovan Burke of River Ridge.
A father of four, Burke saw one recently in his River Ridge neighborhood and had concerns about children and their curiosity, so he posted a warning online.
"We've got a lot of family that live here in the neighborhood, with a lot of kids and I've heard of the horror stories and didn't want anyone to experience it if they didn't have to," Burke said.
"The worst type of injuries we've seen is people jogging or walking, and they have a collar on, and they fall in the collar," Dr. Diaz said.
If you are stung, use duct tape, pressing it several times to pull out the spines. Wash with soap and water, then ice for the pain and swelling and itching. Then follow up with BENADRYL spray for the itching.