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Health warning over Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillar

We are aware of an increasing problem in the local area from oak processionary moth catrerpillars. These caterpillars are covered in tiny hairs that can cause severe asthma attacks and allergic reactions. Until recently, the moth was found only in mainland Europe, but in 2006 it was discovered on oak trees in Ealing and Richmond, in London. The caterpillars feed on oak leaves and produce silken nests on the trunks of affected trees. There is no natural predator. The hairs can cause symptoms if the caterpillars or their nests are touched, but they can also be carried on the wind. The most common symptoms are an unpleasant rash. Less common problems are sore throats, breathing difficulties or eye problems. Asthma UK has advised those with asthma always to remember to carry a reliever inhaler with them in case of an unexpected attack.

The caterpillars or their nests should not be touched. You should not attempt to remove them, but should report them to one of the addresses given below.

Who is affected by these caterpillars? The caterpillars’ hairs can affect anyone, but asthmatics in particular are at risk of having a severe attack. The hairs can also affect animals, including dogs, cats and horses, so people are also encouraged to keep their pets and livestock away from infested trees.

Why do these moths cause health problems? Health problems are most common when the caterpillar is in its last stages of development in late May and early June, before becoming a moth. This is because the caterpillars are covered with tiny hairs that contain a toxin (thaumetopoein or closely related compounds). If these hairs and toxins come into contact with the skin they can cause symptoms.

What sort of symptoms do they cause? If the hairs or toxins come into contact with the skin they can cause a very itchy skin rash. If they come into contact with the eyes they can cause itchy eyes. Can the symptoms be serious? People vary in their response - not everyone reacts to the caterpillar hairs. The most common problem is an itchy rash which is unpleasant but not dangerous.

What should I do if I develop these symptoms? The recommended treatment includes an oral antihistamine, such as cetirizine or loratadine. Speak to your chemist for advice. If the itching keeps you awake, a sedating antihistamine such as chlorphenamine (Piriton®) may help in addition. Topical steroid cream such as hydrocortisone can also be purchased from the chemist and this may soothe the rash further.  If your symptoms are not responding to this, ask for a telephone consultation with your GP. If you have any breathing difficulty, consider booking an appointment or A&E in extreme cases.

What should I do if I see a nest? Anyone who thinks they have found oak processionary caterpillars or their nests should not touch them or attempt to remove them, but should report their sightings to the Forestry Commission with its Tree Alert on-line pest reporting tool, giving as precise details as possible about the location.

Private Prescriptions 
Please be advised that prescriptions issued by a Private Consultant cannot be converted into NHS Prescriptions. You need to take your Private Presciption to a Chemist who will advise you of the charge. Even if this is high, we are not allowed by new NHS rules to issue them.

 

 

 

 

Useful Contacts

Ashtead Hospital 01372 221400 Private Hospital in Ashtead
Cobham Day Centre 01932 596036 3 course hot lunch (£3.25) book in advance
01932 596035 Hairdressing by appointment
01932 596030 Chiropody by appointment every Tues & Wed
01932 596030 Activities (snooker, bingo, zumba, exercise class etc)
Cobham Day Surgery 01932 588400
Cobham Health Centre 01932 867231
Cruse Bereavement 0808 808 1677 Support for people recently bereaved
District Nurses 01372 384323
Epsom District Hospital 01372 735735
Kingston Hospital 0208 546 7711
Oxshott Care 07950 478329 Local voluntary help scheme 
Princess Alice Hospice 01372 468811 Provides palliative care and end of life care for patients
Royal Surrey Hospital 01483 571122
Samaritans 0845 790 9090 Confidential emotional support service
St. Peters Hospital, Chertsey 01932 872000
Wheelchair hire 01372 841148 Disability equipment & wheelchair hire
Blue Disabled Badge Scheme 0300 200 100 (3)  For drivers/passengers with severe mobility problems
Wheelchair Services 01372 384383


 
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