5 things to know: Asps -- poisonous, stinging caterpillars -- back in season

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - We are in stinging asp season.

The furry-looking caterpillars make their debut in July and stick around through November.

Their hairs are venomous and cause severe pain.

According to Texas A&M University, the state is home to a few different kinds of stinging caterpillars, which are called asps. It’s not common to get stung, but if you've ever known a victim of the sting, you know it’s a horrendous sensation.

“I want people to know that these things can cause terrible pain,” said KPRC producer Tera Stidum.

Stidum was on her way to work when she felt the sting begin to inflict pain throughout her body. She assumed she might be experiencing an allergic reaction to a bee sting since she had not seen what bit her.

“Imagine thousands of fire ants biting one part of your body,” Stidum said. “It began to burn. It soon began to swell. I then started to feel a tingling and numbness in my face and along my mouth and lips and that's when I began to worry.”

She went to a CVS Minute Clinic and saw nurse practitioner Alex Hacker, who recognized one key symptom of an asp sting.

How to know if you were stung by an aso caterpillar

“Typically, patients have pain that's radiating, and that's very different,” Hacker said.

She said the radiating pain doesn't happen with other insect stings. She also said your location can also be a clue that you’ve been stung by an asp. Asps fall from oak trees, elm trees, some citrus trees and rosebushes.

“Patients will sometimes describe brushing something off that really hurts. They look down and see there's just a leaf on the ground and that leaf can be, it's actually an asp caterpillar. Caterpillars look like leaves. They're brown and tear-like,” Hacker said.

Now that you know the symptoms, Hacker said, you should act fast if you realize you’ve been stung.

What to do after being stung

Benadryl, Claritin and Cortizone 10 cream are recommended over-the-counter antihistamines to help with the swelling and itching. The asps can leave hairs trapped under your skin. So, she recommends trying to pull them out with tape.

“You'll want to take a piece of Scotch tape and apply it on the area. Slowly remove the Scotch tape to take off any of the little, fine hairs. Those might not be visible to the naked eye and that will help also remove, to keep the venom from going into the skin,” Hacker said.

How to avoid being stung by an asps

Hacker recommends spraying down children’s play equipment with a hose. She’s said children sometimes get stung from coming into contact with the asps on slides and playgrounds.

“This was the most excruciating pain I've ever felt in my life. So, I want to warn parents to watch their children when they're outside playing because I don't want a child to go through what I experienced,” Stidum said.

When to seek medical help

Hacker said if the pain persists, clinics can prescribe a steroid to help. There are some very rare severe reactions that some people experience with these stings and they may require a visit to a doctor or hospital.

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