PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A Port St. Lucie woman is recovering after being stung by a poisonous caterpillar at a local park.
Now, she wants to share her experience with hopes of keeping others safe.
Tara Forbes said she was at Whispering Pines Park in Port St. Lucie last weekend, watching her son play on the playground.
She was sitting on a bench under an oak tree when she said she felt a burning sensation on her arm.
“My arm was out on the bench ... I thought maybe I was getting a little sunburn,” Forbes said. “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.”
That fuzz, she said, was from a poisonous puss caterpillar. She doesn’t know if it fell from the tree, where they are known to live, or if it was already on the bench where she was sitting. The pain spread to her bones and joints and became excruciating, she said.
“My arm swelled up from my finger tips to my shoulder up into my neck and even into my chest.”
She also became dizzy and nauseous.
Forbes is a nurse and knew which symptoms to watch for to determine if she should go to the emergency room. In hindsight, she said she would go if she were to get stung again to better control the pain.
That is why she wants her message to reach parents.
“I think if this happened to my son or somebody else’s child they should go directly to the ER because it was very painful ... Children are so much smaller, so it could affect them much worse.”
More than 24 hours after making contact with the caterpillar, Forbes was still in some pain.
“I think it would be good for other parents just to be aware that when you’re enjoying the outdoors like we did, these things could happen. Know to seek medical help immediately when it does happen.”
She said she used tape to pull the hairs out of her skin.
A spokesperson with the city of Port St. Lucie said staff from the parks department checked out the park for poisonous caterpillars after Forbes’ report was brought to their attention.
They did not find any of the caterpillars but said they will be returning Tuesday to look again. The spokesperson said city crews check all city parks daily for any potential hazards.