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Toxicon. 2003 Nov;42(6):657-62.

Prospective study of definite caterpillar exposures.

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NSW Poisons Information Centre, The Children's Hospital, Westmead, Corner Hawkesbury Rd & Hainsworth Street, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia.


Exposure to caterpillars results in a variety of clinical effects depending on the species involved. The aim of this study was to describe the clinical effects from caterpillar exposures within Australia. Cases were recruited prospectively from calls to a poison information centre. Subjects were included if they had a definite exposure and they had collected the caterpillar or cocoon. The caterpillars were identified to genus and species level where possible. There were 36 included cases: two were contact exposures to caterpillar contents, one was an ingestion of a caterpillar and the remaining 33 patients had definite reactions from caterpillar or cocoon exposure. There were five families of caterpillars identified in the study: Arctiidae, Limacodidae, Anthelidae, Lymantriidae and Sphingidae, many of which occur worldwide. Clinical effects ranged from severe pain to an urticarial response depending on the species involved. There were no adverse effects following ingestion in this study. Treatment consisted primarily of removal of the caterpillar or cocoon. Other treatment measures consisted of symptomatic treatment such as ice packs and antihistamines. This is the first prospective study of caterpillar exposures within Australia and demonstrates that exposures can result in a variety of reactions depending on the family and species involved.

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