— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on 7 March 2010, was last revised on 29 November 2012. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 11:03(12).
Several years ago, in conjunction with my research on the puss caterpillar, I asked visitors to the BugsInTheNews website for personal reports of experiences with puss caterpillar stings. Before long. thousands of emails poured in.
Sting victims told how they, their spouses, small children, even babies, reacted to the stings. Many had visited clinics or emergency rooms, fearing a life-threatening reaction, and reported on the treatments, examinations, and diagnostic tests they’d received in such settings.
A few described the first aid measures and home remedies they’d tried, and how well they worked. Some of these measures were said to provide immediate relief, shorten recovery time, speed up the removal of lingering blemishes, and reduce scarring. At first I read these reports with skepticism. But similar reports kept coming in.
In parallel with all this I was receiving, with regularity, calls and e-mails from individuals who had recently been stung and were in pain, who were seeking information on how to deal with the stings. I realized that, by collecting such information, I had become morally responsible for sharing it, including the remedies that had been shared with me, as those measures might be of help to others. It is in that spirit that the following materials are made available here. Please note that I am not a physician, and nothing in the following pages should be used to diagnose or treat a medical condition, or to replace or supplant advice provided by a medical professional. Just like starting a diet or exercise routine, it is always important to consult your doctor. Whether it be reading Medifast reviews or looking into a local gym make sure you are doing the right thing.
For most who are stung by a puss caterpillar, the untreated lesion is acutely painful for several hours or days, followed by mild to moderate discomfort for an additional period of time. According to many of the reports emailed to me, immediate pain relief can be obtained by using tape to remove the spines.
USE TAPE TO REMOVE THE MICROSCOPIC SPINES
Sting victims reported that they gently pressed fresh, clean adhesive tape against the lesion, then lifted it off the skin. This is repeated, again with fresh, clean tape, several times. The kind of tape varied, but included SCOTCH brand magic mending tape, ordinary duct tape, and medical bandaging tape. Caution: using tape on ultra-sensitive skin is inadvisable; be very careful with Infants, children, and elders subject to skin tears.
Those who applied tape immediately after the sting occurred reported good to excellent results. Surprisingly, similar levels of pain relief were reported even when tape was applied hours or days following the sting event.
COMMERCIAL FACIAL PEELS
Some authorities recommend using commercial facial peels to remove the spines from the wound site. None of the sting victims who have contacted me reported that they had used such peels for that purpose, so it is not possible to comment, at this time, on how well it works. However, one should keep in mind that peels, waxes, or similar methods tend to produce a strong adhesion to the skin, and the act of removing the peel, wax, etc., from the skin can result in skin tears in susceptible individuals.
In December 2009 a call was received from a fellow (who did not identify where he was calling from) who reported that he had used WD-40 on several puss caterpillar stings on his hand. He’d been told to do this by a friend, who indicated that it was “common knowledge” that WD-40 (a well-known automotive and household penetrating oil), sprayed on a puss caterpillar sting, provided immediate relief from pain. He told me he’d sprayed WD-40 on his hand, as his friend suggested, and that the pain ceased immediately.
Some of the ingredients in WD-40 are considered hazardous, and are not approved for use on human skin. I cannot recommend it, for that reason, but the idea that using it to relieve the pain caused by insect stings was “common knowledge” intrigued me. An Internet search quickly proved that WD-40 is, as a matter of fact, regularly touted for use in a multitude of venues, some of which (including relieving the pain caused by insect stings) are not recommended by its manufacturer.
Besides using tape to remove the spines, many reported that poultices would draw out the puss caterpillar venom, and some even stated that when the tape did not seem to work, poultices did. One of the first reports of this kind was sent in by Susan J., of Norfolk, VA:
“Hi, Jerry. Yesterday I emailed you about being stung by one of these puss caterpillars. I was on my front porch, reached down to pick up my umbrella, and felt a sting on the inside of my hand. When I looked to see what it was I noticed one of these caterpillars crawling on my umbrella. I knew right away it had stung me. I ran into the house and immediately put my hand under cold water. Then I grabbed a piece of ice. While holding the ice in my hand I picked up a jar and went back on the porch to capture the critter that injured my hand, for identification purposes. My hand, like many others have reported, continued to burn with pain. I called poison control and they recommended ice and antihistamines. I tried that, without relief. I went on line, found your website, and tried using tape to get the stingers out. My hand, 5 hours later, still burned as much as before. The tape provided no relief for me…
I then called a friend, who is a pediatric nurse, and asked if she had any remedies I hadn’t tried. She told me to make a poultice of fresh ginger root and potato and put it on the sting. I purchased fresh ginger root [available at most grocery stores in the produce section], chopped it up along with a piece of fresh potato, put the chopped mixture on my palm with a gauze pad over it and wrapped it with gauze tape [this can be improved upon by using plastic wrap, to prevent the poultice from drying out too quickly]. To secure things in place I placed a rubber glove over my hand and cut the finger tips out for more mobility and comfort. Within an hour the burning sensation started to ease up. With every hour that passed the burning and stinging lessened, instead of increasing as before. The potato and ginger drew out the toxins just as she said they would. Thank heaven, something was finally working! I was pleasantly surprised when I awoke the next morning and my hand was completely normal. I think this was a great remedy for stings and wanted to share it to help anyone from suffering from the pain that this can cause.” Susan J., Norfolk Virginia
Nearly all of the other poultices described later by readers had a base of raw or cooked potato. The most common addition to the basic potato poultice was raw ginger root. The poultice was held in place with a loose gauze dressing, sometimes covered with a loose plastic wrap. Sting victims reported chopping, shredding, or grating raw or cooked potato, either alone or in combination with raw ginger root (available in most grocery produce aisles). This mixture was pressed against the sting site and loosely wrapped with a gauze bandage. Some added a thin sheet of plastic, as a covering, to prevent the poultice from drying out. Results reported from those who had used this procedure have been positive. Cessation of pain, swelling, and scarring, was reported in most cases.
Links: (1) Puss Caterpillar General Information. (2) The Puss Caterpillar’s Stinging Apparatus. (3) Puss Caterpillar Extermination. (4) The Puss Caterpillar’s Natural Predators. (5). Puss Caterpillar Stings–Medical Interventions. (6) Puss Caterpillar Stings–Home Remedy First Aid Measures.
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