By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)June 12, 2018
Summer in Europe can lend itself to adventures with your family, but it also means the return of some pesky critters. Public Health Command Europe wants you to know how to protect yourself against the Oak Processionary Caterpillar, which can be hazardous to your health.
The caterpillar's hairs contain thaumetopoein, a toxin that may cause a rash when touched or exacerbate asthma if inhaled, according to PHCE.
As their name suggests, Oak Processionary Caterpillars are found in Oak trees during early summer months. Additionally, they typically follow one another head-to-tail in "processions" from their nests and from one feeding position to another.
When a person comes in contact with the caterpillar's hairs it can irritate the lungs, eyes and skin and can even cause a severe allergic reaction. If the hairs come in contact with a person's eyes they may develop conjunctivitis.
The best defense against these caterpillars is to avoid them. PHCE recommends avoiding oak trees and dense forests; be vigilant during outdoor activities; change clothes after outdoor activities; and close the windows in your home.
It is also important to ensure children know to stay away from moths, caterpillars and nests, PHCE officials said. Additionally, the caterpillar's hairs can affect pets.
According to PHCE, the symptoms should clear up on their own, however, if an over-the-counter medication does not soothe the symptoms, call your local military treatment facility for an appointment.
Because people react differently and some reactions may be severe, if you experience difficulty breathing or chest pain, do not wait for an appointment with your primary care manager, seek immediate medical attention.
Check Regional Health Command Europe's Facebook page for more health information, https://www.facebook.com/RHCEurope/