An invasive species put a Muskoka mother into the emergency room.
Nicole Porter said she was having a regular afternoon on September 19th, getting her son ready to leave home for the day when she felt a tickle on her back. She ignored it at first but then asked her son if there was something there. Her son said there was a caterpillar on her. By this time, Porter said her back started hurting and her husband had to remove it. “I don’t know if I am getting bit or getting stung,” Porter said. “I’m glad [my son] didn’t touch it. My husband came in and got it off and we kept it alive because it wasn’t your typical caterpillar.”
Porter said the rash it caused eventually spread all the way across her back, from down to her left buttocks to over her shoulder, down her arm and onto her hand.
“I felt like I had been hit by a truck,” Porter said. “Especially in the area where it was. It was weird because it was just that side. I knew it was something. By Saturday I was in emerge and they kept me there all day.”After spending days in pain and the rash getting worse, she decided Friday night that if it didn’t get better by Saturday morning, she would go to the hospital.
Porter said she was put on an I.V. of steroids in an effort to fight the rash. According to Porter, doctors said she was the first patient in Bracebridge to go to the hospital for an encounter with the type of caterpillar.
She said they had heard of patients at other hospitals, so they were able to recognize and diagnose the problem. According to Porter, doctors believed the caterpillar would turn into the gypsy moth, a species listed as invasive on the government of Ontario’s website.
Porter said what happened was the caterpillar’s hairs made microscopic cuts into her skin and released toxins. “Because I left it and didn’t know any different, I just laughed it off at first, it got worse because the toxins keep going,” Porter said. “I read up on it and found out you have to remove the hairs, so my husband duct tapped my entire back and pulled them out that way.”
“The doctor said had I not gotten them out and waited the two days I did, it would have been an even more severe reaction.”
She said the hairs can be like getting a burr stuck on your clothing. So the longer they were in her dress, the more damage they were doing.
According to Ontario’s website, the insects are native to Europe and have an established population between Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.
Written by Greg Higgins