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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Its name is just as impressive as it’s look – the White Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar. It looks like a white caterpillar with a spiked hair style. Only those spikes are real and have barbs that will stick in skin and deliver venom.
“They walked into the house and she started screaming,” Lisa Shychuk says about a moment she won’t soon forget.
The family had been to the Dawson Grange Fair to cheer on her niece in the queen contest. As they left the park, she says one of the venomous caterpillars apparently fell out of a tree and onto her husband, PJ’s, shirt.
On the ride home, then-6-year-old Katie fell asleep. When they got to their home in West Newton, Lisa says, “My husband picked her up to carry her into the house cause she had fell asleep, not knowing there was a caterpillar on his shirt.”
Katie apparently laid her face on her father’s shoulder, right on the critter. Moments later came the scream, and Lisa looked at her daughter.
“She looked like she had fuzz on her face, and I wiped it off, and she screamed bloody murder. The fuzzy stuff on her face were the spikes from the caterpillar,” Lisa said.
Dr. Randy Peters, of AHN Downtown, says the first thing to worry about is “if you are having airway swelling, throat swelling, tongue swelling, eyes itching, you’re having trouble breathing. It could be anaphylactic shock and you should seek emergency medical attention.”
While Katie Shychuk did experience a rash on her face, neck and back, it was the spikes that caused the most problems.
Lisa says, “We did tape for days. We used duct tape and would put it on her face to pull out the spikes.”
Dr. Peters says that’s one way to do it, but the application of the tape must be gently done. In fact, he says if you get a White Hickory Tussock on you, resist the normal reactions.
“Don’t smush it, don’t crash it, don’t crush it; basically, do your best to blow it off or brush it off, but don’t use your hand,” he said.
Rinse the area, but don’t scrub and apply ice.
Katie has fully recovered, but the concern about the White Hickory will remain a problem until we get a really good freeze.