Clinic Memo on Skin Irritation Due to Caterpillar Bristles

November 07, 2017
Maria Nenita L Salcedo, MD, FPPS

We would like to bring to everyone’s attention that once again it is the season when caterpillars infest the vegetation on the Ateneo campus. The barbs or bristles of these organisms are highly irritating to human skin and mucosa (lining of the eyes, nostrils, mouth, etc.) and can even cause generalized and/or severe allergic reactions in some predisposed individuals. To avoid exposure to caterpillars and their bristles while on campus, everyone is advised to:

1.    Stay clear of shrubs and trees whenever possible.
2.    Be wary and alert especially when passing under the shade of a tree; some types of caterpillar dangle from tree branches by thin threads:
3.    Inspect one’s seat/chair and immediate surrounding before sitting down.
In case one gets “stung” with the bristle of a caterpillar, he should observe the following:

1.    Shake off the caterpillar or flick it off with any small object (e.g., ballpen, pencil, a piece of stick or twig). One shouldn’t use his bare hand since the palm can also be stung;
2.    Avoid scratching the affected area. If the bristles are visible on the skin surface, they can be picked off with a pair of tweezers.
3.    Apply calamine or antihistamine lotion to the irritated skin (The Infirmary has calamine and antihistamine lotion).
4.    If the reaction to the bristles is severe enough, a dose of oral or even parenteral antihistamine (anti-allergy medication) may be necessary;
5.    All clothing that may have been contaminated with caterpillar bristles should be changed. For extreme cases of rash or infestation, bathing may even be advised. It is therefore advisable for everyone to keep an extra change of clothes in his bag or locker.

Thank you very much!
Dr. Maria Nenita L. Salcedo        
Head Physician
Junior High School Health Services