With the spring and the beautiful days, lines of processionary caterpillars appear on our roads and paths. Beware, these caterpillars are stinging, and severe inflammatory reactions can occur in direct or indirect contact with them, reminds the Anses, the Health Security Agency.

Processionary, caterpillars:, what, precautions, should, be, taken, to, avoid, inflammatory, reactions?

Processionary caterpillars: Anses reminds of precautionary measures to be taken

Processionary caterpillars owe their name to their behavior: at the end of winter and/or beginning of spring, they move in single file, like a procession, to colonize a new tree, in this case a pine or an oak, depending on the type of caterpillar.

Processionary caterpillars have stinging hairs

Every year, the French National Agency for Health Security reminds us of the dangers of these seemingly harmless little creatures. Because the hairs of processionary caterpillars are particularly stinging. "They can cause inflammatory reactions especially on the skin (redness, itching, skin pain, localized edema, hives and sometimes small blisters), eyes (conjunctivitis, tearing, eye pain) or respiratory tract (coughing, respiratory discomfort), sometimes serious in people or animals exposed to it, "says the Agency. But make no mistake: there is no need for direct contact with the caterpillar to present symptoms, because its stinging hairs are detached and transported very easily under the effect of the wind.

How to protect yourself from these caterpillars?

To avoid any inflammatory reaction and intoxication, the Anses advises to :

  •     do not approach or touch the caterpillars or their nests, an advice that is especially valid for curious children;  
  • stay away from trees with nests (in the form of a white boot or white cocoon on the bark of an oak or on the top of a pine);
  •     wear long clothing when walking in the forest or near infested trees
  •     Avoid rubbing your eyes during or after a walk;
  •     wash fruits and vegetables from your garden if there is an infestation nearby;
  •     Avoid drying laundry next to infested trees.

In case of suspected exposure to caterpillars, the Anses recommends taking a shower and changing clothes. In case of signs of life-threatening emergency (respiratory distress...), call 15 or consult an emergency room, and call a poison control center in case of poisoning.

Note that these caterpillars can also cause severe inflammatory reactions in our pets. It is then necessary to consult a veterinarian. 

Ouch! An animal stung me

Wasps, spiders, augusts, mosquitoes... are unleashed in summer. Most often benign, their attacks are nonetheless very unpleasant. Adopt the right gestures to quickly make insect or mite bites a distant memory.

Hymenoptera stings: bees, hornets, bumblebees and wasps

Hymenoptera stings occur as soon as the sun comes out: in spring and summer. Sweetness attracts bees and wasps, which feed on it: beware of picnics and walks with food in hand. Also avoid brightly colored clothing.

Bees: remove the stinger 

 Bees are the only Hymenoptera to leave the stinger in the skin. If the sting is visible, it can be removed with the fingernail, by pinching it with a knife blade or the edge of a credit card. If it is deep, extraction will be easier by soaking the wound in hot water. Remember to remove rings in case of finger pricks.

Treating the stings

The sting causes swelling, followed by itching that can last several hours. Hymenoptera venom is thermolabile: it is destroyed by heat. After a sting, the wound is left in very hot water for 20 minutes, taking care not to burn yourself. Then, we rub it with vinegar to soothe the pain. We finish by disinfecting and applying a light dermocorticoid.

 Beware of allergic reactions

Hymenoptera bites can cause severe allergic reactions. It is recommended that people at risk cover up as much as possible and avoid areas at risk. In case of multiple stings or at the slightest warning sign (swelling, difficulty breathing, skin reaction, itching, etc.), seek urgent medical attention. Similarly, stings in the mouth, eyes, genitals and neck should be closely monitored.

Mosquito bites

In our latitudes, mosquito bites are above all a great inconvenience. You can prevent them by natural means (citronella, geranium). Most repellents available in supermarkets are effective: just apply evenly and in sufficient quantity!

Not all mosquito repellents are suitable for babies

Check the dosage: there are products suitable for children under 2 years and pregnant women. These products are not suitable for infants under 6 months of age, for whom the only possible protection is covering clothing and a mosquito net.

In case of a mosquito bite, the wound should be disinfected and a soothing cream applied. A bandage can be useful for children to avoid scratching. 

Mite bites: ticks and tigers

These small mites are mainly found in dark and humid places (forest, bushes, shrubs, shaded lawns).


Ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans: vigilance is required. The bite is generally painless at the time: it is better to examine yourself thoroughly after a walk in the forest. "Contrary to popular belief, it is better not to use ether or alcohol to remove the tick because, in reaction, it could release even more potentially infectious liquid," says Dr. Valérie Frayman.

The right thing to do: use non-cutting tweezers or a tick puller, available in pharmacies. Then disinfect with a chlorhexidine-type antiseptic. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics, if necessary. 


These small red spiders, particularly present in the grass, attack especially the zones of the body where the skin is fine (fold of the groin, back of the knee, elbow). They cause red patches and then, after half a day, severe itching that can last for several days. To alleviate the pain, the wounds are soaked in hot water, soaped to remove the bites, then a mild dermocorticoid is applied. 

Red ant, spider and horsefly bites

These insect bites are mostly harmless. However, it is important to monitor their evolution. Allergic reactions are rare, but can occur.


You can have a bad encounter with red ants by lying down in the grass near an ant farm. In Europe, their venom is harmless," notes Dr. Valérie Frayman, "but the bite causes itching that can last several hours. "We treat with a hydrocortisone cream. 


Spiders found in Europe are generally harmless, but they can sting. The pain is usually not significant, and is accompanied by swelling and a slight redness. Disinfection is all that is needed, followed by the application of a soothing cream to soothe. 

The horsefly

The horsefly looks like a large fly. You can be bitten near large animals, such as horses and cows, in fields, and in damp places (near water). The sting causes intense pain that usually subsides within a few hours. It is soothed with a light dermocorticoid, after disinfecting with an antiseptic. 

The ideal first-aid kit against insects and mites

The essentials, to alleviate most insect bites and mite bites:

  •     An anti-mosquito repellent, making sure to use an appropriate dosage (young children, pregnant women);
  •     tweezers (to remove a bee sting, to remove a tick)


  •     a local antiseptic, to disinfect (preferably without alcohol for children, of the chlorhexidine type);
  •     a light dermocorticoid, to soothe, making sure that the dosage is adapted to the age; an antipruritic cream is preferred if you are susceptible to allergies (it contains an antihistamine);
  •   bandages, to avoid touching the wound just after the sting.