A mother in Nanaimo received a scare last Thursday when her eight-month-old daughter ingested a caterpillar and needed emergency medical care.
Krystal Pavan was with her daughter Kenzie and three-year-old son Logan around 9 a.m. May 31 on their sundeck when the infant girl began screaming.
“She was sitting playing with her toys and eating one of her Arrowroot cookies,” said Pavan. “I guess one of the caterpillars must’ve just crawled out in front of her from underneath our patio furniture or something and I didn’t notice and she decided to pop it in her mouth … so when she started screaming I had no idea why.”
It wasn’t until 20 minutes later that Pavan noticed Kenzie had what appeared to be a burn in her mouth and what appeared to be blood blisters inside her cheek, Pavan said. She tried wiping Kenzie’s mouth, but the black remained.
Pavan rushed Kenzie to hospital and one of the nurses told a story about how her daughter had got hold of a caterpillar and similarly had black around her mouth.
“I started thinking to myself, well, I do have caterpillars quite often around my deck, I wonder if that’s what she got a hold of? Sure enough when I mentioned the caterpillar to the doctor, he’s like, ‘That’s exactly what it is. You can see all the little tentacles are fused to the side of her cheek. All the tiny hairs are spines that they have were stuck to her tongue,” Pavan said, adding that other medical staff at the hospital had never seen anything like it before.
Kenzie was taken by ambulance to the pediatric ward at the hospital in Victoria for surgery. Pavan said it required doctors scraping the caterpillar parts off and some of her skin coming with it. Kenzie was in good spirits though and will make a full recovery, according to Pavan.
Pavan suspects the caterpillar was a silver spotted tiger moth common to the area. Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health medical health officer, couldn’t comment specifically, but said occurrences of someone ingesting such a caterpillar are uncommon – usually incidents involve skin exposure.
Generally, Hasselback said if someone were to put such a caterpillar in their mouth, there would be swelling as the area is sensitive.
“It’s mostly the swelling that would be notable along with a stinging sensation,” said Hasselback.
Pavan said she will now ensure there are no caterpillars on her deck.
“I’m definitely being pretty diligent about looking out for them now,” said Pavan.