Floridians, watch out for caterpillars covered in venom

(FirstCoastNews.com) - At first glance it may look harmless.

A fat, furry caterpillar that likes to make its homes in several types of trees in Florida. But a warning: all that fur is covered in venom.

"It's the pain. It is instant and immediate and it's very intense," said emergency room physician Dr. Glenn Hardesty.

Dr. Hardesty says he can describe pain from a puss caterpillar from first-hand experience. He calls it worse than a sting from a bee, a jellyfish, or even a scorpion. And it can also cause vomiting, convulsions and a drop in blood pressure.

"During certain times of the year, they become more prevalent and we are in a time of year they become more prevalent," Hardesty said.

That means your chances of an encounter are higher. Reports of people getting stung who end up at the E.R. are on the rise.

Doctors say try to look around for them when you're working outdoors, and that they are known to fall out of trees.

And just as important: talk to your children who may be tempted to pick one up.

According to the Florida Poison Information Center, some people experience severe reactions to the poison released by the spines and require medical attention. Others experience only an itching or burning sensation.

The center recommends placing scotch tape over the affected area, and strip off repeatedly to remove spines or applying ice packs to reduce the stinging sensation, and follow with a paste of baking soda and water.

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