Florida woman warns others after ‘excruciating' burn from venomous caterpillar

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A Florida woman is warning others after she said she was stung by a venomous caterpillar at a park in Port St. Lucie.

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Tara Forbes told WPTV she was sitting on a park bench watching her son at a playground when she felt an "excruciating" burning sensation on her arm.

"My arm was out on the bench, I thought maybe I was getting a little sunburn," Forbes told WPTV. "I looked down and I had black and white fuzz here, and white fuzz on the inside. It just immediately felt like fire, like somebody took a flame to my skin."

She said her arm completely swelled up and she became dizzy and nauseated.

Forbes believes she was stung by a puss caterpillar, which are often found in oaks and citrus trees in Florida.

A spokesperson for Port St. Lucie said officials searched the park, WPTV reported, but they did not find any of the caterpillars. The spokesperson said park grounds are checked daily for hazards.

According to the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, Florida, puss caterpillars can grow up to an inch long and are covered in gray or brown hair. The hair contains toxic spines that can cause severe pain that sometimes requires medical attention.

Some symptoms include an itching or burning sensation, according to the Poison Information Center.

The center recommends people apply tape to the affected area and strip it off repeatedly to remove the caterpillar's spines. To help with the stinging sensation, it is advised to apply ice packs to the area and following up with a paste of baking soda and water.

If the sting triggers an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.