Fact vs. fiction: The asp caterpillar

These venomous caterpillars could be hanging around your backyard. Touching one can cause symptoms like burning and swelling.

AUSTIN - The asp caterpillar is causing quite a stir this time of year in Central Texas.

Touching one can cause symptoms like burning and swelling but some people say they've even experienced seizures.

KVUE went to an expert to separate fact from fiction; Elizabeth "Wizzie" Brown is an extension program specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

She pointed out the asp caterpillar is not new to our area and not an invasive species. In fact, many people in the Austin area recall being stung when they were young.

That's likely because they look cute and fuzzy and kids think it's okay to pick them up. Other times its because unsuspecting victims happen to be sitting under the wrong tree.

Brown said short of not sitting under a tree or of wearing long sleeves and long pants, you can't prevent them from getting on you. But here's what you can do if you find one on your skin.

"Immediately brush it off if you can and then you can take tape and remove the spines that may be in your skin," said Brown. "Wash the area with soap and water and apply an ice pack to it."

Most people will get an immediate stinging sensation. Brown said within 5 minutes you'll likely have intense pain and a rash in the area. What happens next depends on whether you're allergic to the caterpillar.

"It can cause more serious problems like headache, nausea, vomiting," Brown added. "Sometimes people can go into seizures. It depends on how you react."

To put it all into perspective, Brown said while you have to be careful, she is much more concerned about insects like mosquitoes which can transmit disease.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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