Every week, we ask a medical expert a question regarding our health. This week: I get bumps. It could be the oak processionary caterpillar. Katrien van Wijnendaele (general practitioner): “There is also an oak processionary caterpillar on the beaches that can cause complaints.”
Isn’t the oak processionary caterpillar most active between June and July? Is it still bothering you?
“Caterpillars build their nests in oak trees during the summer months. They are most active between June and July. After that, they become butterflies. Many of the caterpillars’ stinging twigs are still in their nests. We can be really bothered by those stinging strands. Even if the caterpillars are already butterflies. They are known to cause itching and skin irritations. They usually disappear within a few hours.
But I haven’t been anywhere near oak trees!
“The hairs don’t blow with the wind and they don’t travel far enough that you have problems over a large area. Your complaints could be caused by a second caterpillar with stinging hairs, the bastard satin. It is most common on the beaches and in the dunes.
“When the hairs break, a substance is released that the body reacts to with redness and bumps.”
Katrien van Wijnendaele – general practitioner
It has dark brown to black flanks with white hair and long, yellow-brown hair. It is much more beautiful than the oak processionary, but equally annoying. Avoid contact with the caterpillars, as well as the spiders and nests that they build in the dunes.
Are those hairs really causing problems?
“The stinging strands of hair are so small you won’t be able to see them. They can get on your skin because they blow with the wind. They can have barbs. They inflict small cuts on the skin. Broken hairs release a substance which causes the body to react with redness and bumps. The mucous membranes may swell if the hairs reach your lungs.
Do complaints really hurt?
“In principle, not. Although the complaints are most irritating, they disappear within a few days or two weeks. Do not rub or scratch. You should not scratch or rub your skin if you are experiencing itching or red bumps. A clothes roller that removes dirt and hair from clothing. You can also use adhesive tape to strip your skin. Wash your clothes at minimum 60 degrees.
“Always rinse the skin with plenty of warm water. You can do this in the shower. You can also use a cooling ointment such as calendula cream ointment to get relief. Are you suffering from dry eyes? Rinse well with lukewarm.
When should you visit the doctor
“If your eye problems persist after washing, you should consult your doctor immediately. An eye infection can be caused by a burned hair in the eye. If you feel dizzy, have a fever or are short of breath, call your doctor right away. If you feel short of breath quickly, call 112 immediately. You may also experience swelling of your tongue, eyelids, or lips.
Katrien van Wijnendaele, a general practitioner in Barneveld.