Island Health warns of venomous caterpillars after Nanaimo baby puts one in mouth


WATCH: An eight-month-old girl Nanaimo girl required surgery after she put a venomous caterpillar in her mouth. It’s an insect commonly found on Vancouver Island and it normally isn’t considered a threat. As Kendall Hanson tell us, the girl’s mom is warning other parents that the type of caterpillar could be dangerous.

May 31st was just shaping up to be a typical day for Krystal Pavan and her kids.

Three-year-old Logan was playing in the yard while Pavan and eight-month-old Kenzie were on their home’s deck.

“She was playing with her toys eating an Arrowroot cookie and as soon as she was finished she let out a huge scream,” said Pavan. “She started crying and I just figured ‘oh it must be time for her nap.'”

While Pavan was attempting to soothe her, she saw some black pieces inside her mouth. It looked like tar inside her cheek. Pavan couldn’t clean it out so she ended up rushing Kenzie to hospital.

“I was panicked,” said Pavan. “I had no idea what it could be. I had never seen anything like it before.”

Once there a nurse raised the possibility of it being a caterpillar.

“I automatically went ‘Oh yeah, I have caterpillars all around my deck. Could that be what caused it?’ and sure enough when I went into the doctor’s room the doctor said ‘Yeah that’s exactly what it is. It’s a caterpillar. All the tentacles are fused to her cheek.'”

The medical incident was serious. Kenzie was rushed to the pediatric unit in Victoria where doctors performed surgery to remove all the pieces.

Pavan says Kenzie is now OK but she wants to warn other parents of the potential danger.

“I had no idea that just by touching them they could actually cause allergic reactions, like burning and stinging sensations,” said Pavan.

Island Health says some caterpillars are actually venomous insects. The caterpillar Kenzie put in her mouth was a silver-spotted tiger moth, which has venomous, stinking hairs.

“Some have a natural defence, a venom, that is included on the tips of those spines that stick out from the body and it’s designed to protect them,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, the region’s medical health officer. “We’re not supposed to be coming in contact with them.”

Doctors say simply washing the skin will often eliminate most reactions but if a child gets a caterpillar stuck in their mouth, it’s best to take them to the emergency room.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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