Gypsy moth caterpillars causing more than just an eyesore this spring

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BROCKTON, Mass. - Gypsy moth caterpillars are known for devastating trees, but they are also irritating people who come into contact with them.

Virginia Letendre said it started as a rash, and she had no idea how she got it.


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“I didn’t even see the gypsy moth caterpillar but when I got home I had all red bumps,” she told Boston 25 News. “Just from putting my arms on the fence watching my son's baseball game.”

But that’s all it takes to get a rash from the gypsy moth caterpillar, according to Dr. Abigail Waldman, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital dermatologist.


Waldman said the problem is specifically caused by the hairs of the caterpillar, and avoiding contact is the only way to prevent the rash – which can last up to two weeks.

“You can take an antihistamine for the itching or for severe cases you can get a topical steroid from your doctor,” she said.

Last year, Massachusetts suffered through the worst gypsy moth outbreak in more than 30 years with caterpillars eating their way through more than 350,000 acres of forest.  A similar outbreak is expected this year. 

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