The oak processionary moth is a moth that is particularly comfortable in warmer areas. Due to climate change, it is also moving further to the north. The hair of the caterpillar of the oak processionary moth trigger strong allergic reactions in many people, the so-called oak processional allergy.
What is oak processionary moth allergy?
According to foodanddrinkjournal, the allergic reactions are caused by the stinging hairs of the caterpillars of the oak processionary moth. These hairs protect the animal from enemy attackers. Before pupation, the caterpillars build a nest and also use these stinging hairs.
Since the nests are often exposed to the wind, hair can loosen and be carried far away by the wind, so that it is not necessary to come into direct contact with the caterpillar. The hair is microscopic. The special thing about the hairs is that their effect is retained for years and they do not dissolve very easily, so that the detached hair from previous years can also cause problems.
The cause of the oak processionary moth allergy is the poison in the caterpillar’s hairs. This poison is intended for defense against predators. The poison is the protein thaumetopoein. This poison is released when the hair is broken.
How big the allergic reaction to the stinging hairs of the oak processionary moth is depends on the immune system of the person concerned, no general prediction can be made about this.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The symptoms and symptoms of an oak processionary moth allergy are usually very similar to the symptoms of a common allergy. Those affected suffer from very severe itching that can occur in different parts of the body, usually the arms or legs. Furthermore, pustules or wheals develop, which can also be associated with pain.
Scratching will make the itching worse. The oak processionary moth allergy can also lead to shortness of breath, in which the patient can in the worst case completely lose consciousness and injure himself if he falls. The quality of life of the person affected is significantly reduced by this allergy when there is contact with the allergen.
In the case of severe breathing difficulties, damage to the internal organs or even the brain can occur, whereby this damage is irreversible and can no longer be treated. A fever also occurs, making those affected feel tired and exhausted. If the oak processionary moth allergy is not treated, it is not uncommon for an inflammation of the conjunctiva to occur.
If contact with the allergen is avoided, the life expectancy of the patient will not be reduced by the oak processionary moth allergy. The severity of the individual complaints also depends heavily on the severity of the allergy.
The allergy to the oak processionary moth manifests itself primarily in skin eczema, irritation of the eyes and the respiratory tract. In some cases there is a fever, dizziness and circulatory problems. A general malaise with headaches and exhaustion can also set in. In particularly bad cases, the allergic reaction can even be life-threatening.
The rashes express themselves mainly nettle-like with red areas or points with severe itching. Inhalation can cause irritation of the airways with dyspnoea and even inflammation. If the hairs get into the eyes, there is severe reddening and, in some cases, inflammation of the eye.
Diagnosis & course
The course of the allergy is different. In mild forms, the irritative conditions often subside quickly, but at the latest within a week to a maximum of two weeks.
Sensitive people should be especially careful as the effects can provoke an allergic shock. This condition can become life threatening. Since no direct contact with the animal is necessary, many people affected do not know what is actually missing, but most doctors are aware of the problem, especially in the warmer areas that are often affected.
You can then quickly classify the symptoms. The main time for the occurrence of the allergy is in May and June, during this time the oak processionary moths develop the most poisonous stinging hairs.
The symptoms and complications of oak processionary moth allergy are relatively similar to the symptoms of other diseases, which is why a diagnosis cannot be made early. In most cases, the skin is reddened with severe itching. If the patient scratches, the itching usually gets worse.
Breathlessness can also occur and the person may lose consciousness. It is not uncommon for patients to suffer from dizziness and fever. There is a general feeling of illness and a reduction in performance. In addition to the rashes, coughing can also occur. People who suffer from asthma are particularly affected by the disease.
In the worst case, it comes to a circulatory collapse. In most cases there is no causal treatment. However, the patient is limited in his life because contact with nature is no longer allowed to take place without further ado. A high level of hygiene must also be ensured.
In severe cases, the oak processionary moth allergy can also be treated with the help of medication. There are no further complications. In most cases, life expectancy is not restricted by the oak processionary moth allergy.
When should you go to the doctor?
If itching, hives, breathing problems and other typical signs of oak processionary moth allergy occur after contact with nettle poison, a doctor should be consulted. If the symptoms are more severe, it is best to contact the emergency medical service directly. An allergic shock must be treated immediately by an emergency doctor. In order to avoid such serious complications, allergy sufferers should consult the responsible doctor immediately if they have symptoms.
The same applies to children, sick and elderly people as well as pregnant women. People with previous illnesses of the immune system should also seek medical advice quickly and, if necessary, seek treatment if they have symptoms mentioned. The assumption of an oak processionary moth allergy is obvious if the symptoms first appeared after walks in the forest or generally after staying in areas with many oaks.
If this is the case, a doctor must be called in. In addition to the family doctor, the allergist or – in the event of a medical emergency – the nearest clinic is the appropriate point of contact. Once diagnosed, treatment must be monitored, followed by extensive follow-up care.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of the rashes of the oak processionary moth allergy is mainly treated with antiallergic agents as well as antihistamines and cortisone preparations.
It is important that the severely itchy skin is not scratched by the patient, as this only allows the stinging hairs to get further into the skin and cause further inflammation. Most of the time, the affected areas of the skin are treated with a cream containing cortisone to relieve the inflammation.
Respiratory problems and shortness of breath are treated with bronchodilator sprays, which are also used for asthma diseases. This is particularly helpful because the symptoms of the disease in the airways cause reactions similar to those of asthma itself. Children are often more affected by the effects than adults and should always be presented to a doctor.
The first measure after contact with the stinging hairs is a long shower and intensive washing of all clothing at at least 60 degrees Celsius. It is important not to take the items of clothing with stinging hairs loose into the apartment, but rather to transport them directly into the washing machine in a plastic bag. If hairs remained in the clothing, they could cause irritation again and again. The thorough cleaning of the shoes should not be forgotten.
Outlook & forecast
In the case of an oak processional moth allergy, the prognosis depends very much on how strongly the person affected reacts to the microscopic stinging hairs of the caterpillar. The prospects for allergic reactions are very good in people with normal sensitivity. In the case of mild allergic reactions, those affected can expect the irritation to subside relatively quickly. This should have subsided after two weeks at the latest.
However, the prognosis is worse for people who react strongly to the poisonous stinging hairs. These are distributed by the wind. In the case of a pronounced oak processional moth allergy, the thaumetopoein protein threatens an anaphylactic shock. The problem is that those affected often had no direct contact with the processionary moth caterpillar. They do not see what troubles them. However, the treating physicians are now aware of the problem.
For a good prognosis it is important that those present in the room react correctly at the first signs of anaphylactic shock. It is an acute emergency that requires immediate action. The emergency doctor must be alerted immediately. An oak processionary moth allergy may be life-threatening. The most important time when an oak processionary moth allergy can occur are the months of May and June. During these months most of the contacts with the poisonous stinging hairs of the oak processionary moth take place.
The oak processionary moth allergy can only be partially prevented. It is advisable to stay away from known places where the oak processionary moth occurs more frequently, this can be especially in deciduous forests in May and June.
Although the oak processionary moth prefers the oak, it can also be found in other deciduous tree species. Loose, long clothing can keep at least some stinging hairs off the skin, thus minimizing the effects of an oak processionary moth allergy. Since the stinging hairs can be carried on with the wind, there is hardly any protection against inhalation.
The oak processionary moth’s nests are sometimes removed with special suits, but this can only limit the effects and not entirely prevent them.
In the case of oak processionary moth allergy, there are usually no or very few measures and options for follow-up care possible, so that the person affected is primarily dependent on medical treatment. In general, contact with the cause of this allergy should be avoided so that the symptoms do not occur. However, should the symptoms of oak processionary moth allergy arise, it is advisable to consult a doctor in order to prevent further complications.
Further aftercare measures are usually no longer necessary. This allergy is treated with the help of medication, whereby those affected depend on the correct dosage and regular intake. However, if there are problems with the respiratory tract, a doctor must be consulted first.
After the symptoms of the oak processionary moth allergy have occurred, the clothing that was worn should also be washed so that the symptoms do not recur. The shoes should also be cleaned well. Parents should also watch out for symptoms of oak processionary moth allergy in children and consult a doctor if necessary. As a rule, this disease does not reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.
You can do that yourself
The oak processionary moth allergy is caused by the stinging hairs of the caterpillar species of the same name. These microscopic hairs protect the animal from predators and are carried in all directions by the wind. Even after many years, the caterpillar hairs can still trigger allergies, some of which can be difficult.
Those affected with weak endogenous defenses, especially children, the elderly, asthmatics and the chronically ill, are advised to strengthen the immune system with food rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids as part of self-help. In addition, a hygienically clean environment must be ensured in your own home.
If the oak processionary moth allergy has broken out after contact, scratching the skin should be avoided as far as possible in order to counteract inflammation and immediately take a long shower. The clothes worn at the time must be washed at at least 60 degrees, shoes are thoroughly cleaned.
If severe burning and itchy skin rashes develop, treatment with antihistamines, antiallergic agents and cortisone preparations is carried out after a medical examination. In the case of highly allergic reactions such as shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, fever and circulatory collapse, self-help measures are not effective and the emergency medical service must be initiated immediately.
In principle, those affected with oak processionary moth allergy are not very restricted in their everyday life. Spending time in nature between May and June should be avoided as much as possible, especially in the immediate vicinity of deciduous forests, and should only be done with well-covered parts of the body.