Krystal Pyne was playing with her two young kids outside on their back deck when her 8-month-old daughter started screaming in pain.
In a recent Facebook post detailing the event, Pyne describes how her baby was inconsolable. That's when she noticed a peculiar symptom.
"As I'm trying to figure out what is wrong with her, she had her mouth open while crying, and I noticed the inside of her mouth had some blackness to it," she explains.
Turns out, her daughter had suffered chemical burns from putting a fuzzy orange-and-black caterpillar into her mouth, but Pyne didn’t know that at the time. It was a nurse at the hospital where Pyne took her daughter that first mentioned the possibility. The nurse said that her own daughter had suffered painful burns in her mouth from sucking on a caterpillar.
“As soon as the nurse mentioned caterpillar, I started thinking, I have soooooo many caterpillars around our deck. Is it possible that's what caused it?” Pyne writes in her post.
Soon after, a doctor confirmed her suspicions and informed her that her daughter would need to have surgery to remove hairs from the caterpillar that were stuck to her tongue and the tentacles that were fused to her cheek.
Thankfully, the surgery was successful and the 8-month-old has made a full recovery, but Pyne has a warning for parents: “Watch out for those cute, fuzzy, orange-and-black caterpillars!” Especially around young children who tend to put everything into their mouths.
According to Poison Control, “Caterpillars cause a surprising number of stings for such small creatures." Also, “most problems from caterpillar exposures are due to tiny hairs (setae) or actual spines on a caterpillar's body.”
There are several different types of caterpillars that can cause injuries, including the saddleback, io moth, puss, gypsy moth, flannel moth and buck moth caterpillars.
The caterpillar that injured Pyne’s daughter appears to be a tiger moth, and it can be found in a wide range of mountainous areas, including much of the western U.S.
According to Poison Control, sticky tape can sometimes be used to remove the offending caterpillar's hairs when placed over the sting, providing relief. If the reaction to the caterpillar is severe, as it was for Pyne’s baby, the organization recommends contacting your health care provider immediately.