Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

Caterpillar Envenomation: Higad Attack

Posted on | August 11, 2010 | 56 Comments

Studying in the wide-open and heavily planted campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman during the month of August has with it increased chances of getting intimate with hairy caterpillars also known in Filipino as higad.

These little creatures, while part of the life cycle that ends in a butterfly (or moth, depending on the species) have this habit of dropping onto your exposed skin when you least expect it. And because their fine silky hairs (setae) are like thin-gauged needles dipped in acid, they cause rather painful and/or itchy (not to mention somewhat disfiguring) lesions on the areas of contact.

Without going too much into the pathophysiology of how erucism or caterpillar dermatitis comes to be (the medical professionals among you already have several key words to search for to find the appropriate literature), the most common manifestation of caterpillar envenomation is that of a “localized, pruritic, maculopapular contact dermatitis and urticaria,” following “contact with toxic hairs, spines, or hemolymph [of the caterpillar], either directly or following aerosolization.” (Hooray for!) In plain English, you’ll find a somewhat raised patch of skin that’s really itchy/painful and sometimes red or pinkish in color.

Popular Remedies

Similar to the cure for a bad hangover, caterpillar envenomation seems to be a shared experience that transcends generations – hence the multitude of popular remedies (some effective, others outrageous) “prescribed” by your friendly neighborhood… neighbor. There’s the application of vinegar – that has some scientific basis in that acidic vinegar does dissolve the alkaline caterpillar hairs (but not the parts already in your skin); there’s the application of urine – same principle as vinegar, urine being somewhat acidic; there’s rubbing the area with rock salt followed by virgin coconut oil; and then there’s pouring hot candle wax over the area (kinky!) then stripping it off once cool – to pull out the hairs.

Medical Approach: First Aid

Those having been said, the lesion from a higad attack is basically an inflammatory response of the body to the offending caterpillar hairs. What’s recommended is to do the following:

  1. Remove all jewelry/accessories from the area (if arms/legs). Gently wash the affected area with soap and water, then dry without coming into contact with the skin (e.g. use a hair dryer/fan).
  2. Apply alcohol or ammonia to cool the area and temporarily relieve symptoms;
  3. Apply sticky tape (duct tape, cellophane tape, etc) onto the area to pull off retained hairs. Alternative methods include the use of rubber cement, clear fingernail polish, or facial peeling solutions – all of which should be applied, allowed to dry, then peeled off.
  4. If the affected area is an arm or leg, splint, elevate, then apply ice/cold compress to reduce the swelling.

If the victim accidentally inhaled the caterpillar hairs, or has a history of allergies, immediately seek consult at the nearest health facility/with the nearest available physician. In case of caterpillar hairs finding their way into the victim’s eyes, flush the eyes with copious amounts of clean and cool water.

If Symptoms Persist…

…consult your doctor. Inform him/her of the above first aid you have given. S/he will then know what specific medications to give (such as antihistamines, painkillers, and sometimes steroids).

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56 Responses to “Caterpillar Envenomation: Higad Attack”

  1. Tweets that mention Caterpillar Envenomation: Higad Attack | Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD --
    August 11th, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by J. Villamor Viloria, Albert Domingo. Albert Domingo said: Na-#higad attack ka ba? Caterpillar hairs ang may sala. Here's the remedy: […]

  2. Lala
    August 11th, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

    Kumakalat po ba ung marks sa katawan? Nag iiwan po ba ito ng peklat?

  3. Albert
    August 12th, 2010 @ 11:17 am

    Hi Lala,

    Kumakalat lamang ang marks sa katawan kung may naiwang buhok nung higad na napalipat-lipat sa katawan. Kaya dapat alisin kaagad yung buhok ng higad gamit ang tape o ibang paraan tulad ng naisulat.

    Kung hindi magsusugat dahil sa sobrang pagkamot, hindi magkaka-peklat. Kaya iwasang kumamot ng kumamot.

    Salamat sa pagdalo sa website ko. 🙂

  4. francis
    August 13th, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    Sir Albert, panu po pg hindi natangal agad ung buhok ng higad, puedi pa ba un matangal? kasi kalat na ung mga markings sa arms ko and tyan ehhh. hindi po ba toh kusang mwala pg pabayaan lang?
    salamat po sa site nyo mrami kayong natulungan.
    God bless!
    eto po ung email add ko.

  5. Pauline
    August 14th, 2010 @ 10:58 am

    hanggang kailan po ba tumatagal ung mga marks sa katawan?

  6. Albert
    August 15th, 2010 @ 7:31 am


    Mga 3-5 days bago mawala yang mga pantal. Basta ba’t nahugasan/nalinisan ng maayos, mawawala na rin yan. Kumonsulta sa pinakamalapit na doktor kung hindi pa rin mawawala after 3-5 days. 🙂

  7. Albert
    August 15th, 2010 @ 7:34 am

    Hi Pauline,

    Mga 3-5 days.

  8. Ian
    August 30th, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

    waaa 3-5 days pa? 🙁

    i got higad this afternoon lang and now it’s evening.
    the left part of my neck is still swelling and kinda feels like a bruise.
    how do i reduce the swelling?

  9. Albert
    August 31st, 2010 @ 9:34 am

    Hi Ian,

    Yes, it will take 3-5 days to subside depending on your body’s response. To reduce the swelling (and pain), cold compress may be applied over the affected area. Hope this helps!


  10. kimberly
    September 8th, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

    sir albert,naawa kasi ako s mga kapatid ko,mdami kc puno samin,may magagawa po ba para mataboy ang mga higad? meron bang pdeng ipangpa usok para umalis sila?

  11. Albert
    September 12th, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    Hi Kimberly,

    Hindi ko kabisado ang mga paraan sa pagtaboy ng higad. May mga nagsasabing ang pag-siga ng mga dahon sa ilalim ng puno na maraming higad ay nakatutulong. 🙂

  12. Rej
    September 21st, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

    THANKS! :>

    I’ll link this page to my friends. 🙂

  13. Pjay
    September 27th, 2010 @ 2:02 am

    hi po!
    I just got higad late saturday afternoon when were practicing our cheerdance in our basketball court in our barangay hall… First, there’s this pantal in my arm, i didnt know it was higad at first, i thought its just mosquito bite so I applied petroleum jelly.. After a while, that little pantal became many red and itchy swellings in my arm,and its so itchy… I dont know what to do, please help me… My aunt advised me to put vinegar on it, i already put some but still it wont go away… Please help!!! Thanks a lot!

  14. Albert
    October 5th, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    Hi Pjay,

    Please read my blog post above. It has detailed instructions on what to do as first aid. If symptoms still persist, please consult your doctor.

  15. Glerize
    October 22nd, 2010 @ 9:21 am

    Thank you po. This helped me so much! Naagapan kagad kaya hours later lang wala ng itch, unting rash na lang. Thanks po talaga 🙂

  16. Albert
    October 22nd, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    You’re welcome Glerize. 🙂

  17. gles
    December 4th, 2010 @ 2:53 am

    sir, pwede bang makakuha ng gantong kati na galing sa tubig na natutuluan ng bubong namin na sa likod ng bahay namin maraming higad? wala naman ako nakitang higad sa kahit saan except dun sa likod ng bahay namin. wala naman akong allergy sa food. ngayon lang ako nagkaganire. salamat po sir! pagpalain kayo nawa.

  18. Albert
    December 4th, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

    Hi Gles,

    Maaaring hindi dahil sa higad kundi dahil sa tubig ang pangangati ng iyong katawan. Mabuting ikonsulta mo ang kondisyon mo sa iyong doktor para makita niya ang iyong nabanggit. Maraming salamat sa pagbasa nitong blog ko! 🙂

  19. pat
    January 8th, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    good to know there’s a local md website like this for us moms.. hindi puro western or indian md sites. 🙂

  20. isabelle
    February 16th, 2011 @ 10:42 am

    what if i wasn’t able to give it first aid? a higad dropped on me for the first time ever a couple days ago and i didn’t know what to do! the nurse just rubbed ointment on it and then suggested that i wash it with vinegar, which i didn’t do. yesterday i coped with the help of antihistamine pills and katinko, that chinese rubbing ointment. only today did i try vinegar. help please! i just want the itchiness and the marks to go away 🙁

  21. Jaypee
    February 27th, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

    OMG! Just yesterday I came to our garage where a leafy guava tree stands tall. I was roaming around, and then all of a sudden I felt very itchy on my right arm. Then my father told me that it was caused by higad(tiny monster) and I’m victimized. I do nothing to cure it except rubbing anti itch liniment. After hours, rashes have shown..they are turning to black spots.. I was ignorant how to cure it not after I have read your posts..what would I do? To get rid of these rashes..thanks.

  22. dianne
    March 2nd, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

    doc, un sa kapatid ko po more than 5 days na po and i think hindi nya properly natanggal un caterpillar hair so nagkaroon ng raised, pruritic lesions sa thumb nya. ano po ang dapat gawin?

  23. Albert
    March 3rd, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

    Hi Dianne,

    Please consult your doctor. Inform him/her of the above first aid you have given. S/he will then know what specific medications to give (such as antihistamines, painkillers, and sometimes steroids). 🙂

  24. Albert
    March 3rd, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

    Hi Isabelle,

    Please consult your doctor. Inform him/her of the above first aid you have given. S/he will then know what specific medications to give (such as antihistamines, painkillers, and sometimes steroids). 🙂

  25. Albert
    March 3rd, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

    Hi Jaypee,

    Please consult your doctor. Inform him/her of the above first aid you have given. S/he will then know what specific medications to give (such as antihistamines, painkillers, and sometimes steroids). 🙂

  26. Ruthanna
    June 8th, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    Hi Doc,

    Thanks for the informations that you’ve shared. Can I feature your blog post in our radio program for women? The tips that you’ve shared are really helpful.

    Thanks again!

  27. michael
    June 10th, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    hi doc!

    thanks for the timely info 😀 we’ve got them bugs all over the school

  28. gelly
    August 28th, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

    i had a tour in one of butterfly farms and the person incharged there said that “higads” don’t become butterflies, or moth or anything. they are just plain “higad”. is there a specie of “higad” that really doesn’t bacome a butterfly, moth or mariposa?

  29. Albert
    October 27th, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Hi Gelly,

    He must have been referring to something else. My article includes references to the scientific name of the organism’s species. 🙂

  30. Christina
    October 29th, 2011 @ 5:15 am

    Sagad pala itong higad. Di ko namalayang may nashoot pala sa damit ko nung nakaupo kami sa ilalim ng puno. Ayun nangati ako ng nangati nung pagpunta ko sa cr para silipin ung dibdib ko ayung gumagapang na sya baka nga napindot ko pa sya habang nasaloob sya ng damit ko eh kaya mas makati tuloy. Dali dali naman akong umuwi galing school para maligo taz nilagyan ko ng alcohol then polbo. Makati parin! Ngaun ko plang gagawin ung remedy jan sa taas hope it helps me 🙂 salamat doc! Btw nangangagat ba ang higad?

  31. Krisha Aila
    January 5th, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    Sir,Albert anO po ba ung gamot para mawaLa ang pantaL kO at ung kati..kasi po umupo aco sa may punO ng mangga..tapos po bigLa po acOng nangati ee madami pon g higad dun..purO pantaL nga po ung buong face ko ,buong brasO at pati sa tiyan…ano po ba ang gamot..???

  32. Albert
    February 4th, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    Hi Krisha, pakibasa po ang aking naisulat na. Kung di pa rin gumaling, pakikonsulta sa klinika ng pinakamalapit na doktor. 🙂

  33. arrel
    March 5th, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

    hirap po talaga mawala ang sakit nakakatulong ba talaga ang baking soda paste?

  34. Mark
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    hello sir,

    paano ho kung hindi ko nakuha yung buhok ng higad? kagaya ho ng situation ni francis. Nung nagsimula na akong nangangati hinugasan ko lang ho ito ng tubig at sabon pagkatapos ay linagyan ko ng alcohol ,., at dun sa huli linagyan ko na ng antifungal ointment. please need help. THANKS

  35. Albert
    May 30th, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    Hi Arrel,

    Mas maganda po kung yun lamang nakasulat sa article sa itaas ang ating subukan. 🙂

  36. Albert
    May 30th, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    Hi Mark,

    Hindi nakatutulong ang anti-fungal ointment dahilan sa hindi fungus ang higad. Kung patuloy ang pangangati pagkatapos ng first aid na nabanggit dito, komunsulta sa klinika ng iyong doktor. 🙂 Salamat

  37. Mhay
    July 3rd, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

    Hello doc,ask ko lang po if mwawala na ang pamumula after 3-5days?i was attack by higad yesterday and now there are lots of red spots on my skin,thank you so much!

  38. Jae Flroence
    July 9th, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    Sir, bakit po yung saakin minsan makati minsan hindi. Pag kinamot ko dadami ng dadami. Araw araw ko naman pong sinasabon at nilalagyan ng alcohol. Pero ganun parin. Yung iba nga nasugat na eh. Ano po ba ang effective na gamot dito? Yung mga pinapahid? 5 days na kasi yung saakin.

  39. rosalinda
    July 22nd, 2013 @ 4:29 am

    Gud am po, bigla n lng po aqng nangati kagabi, after nun nlman qng my maliit n paruparo s shorts q and mejo nadurog n xa dhil nsama xa s kamot q, ngapply n q ng alchol at naligo, nwala wala ang kati pagkatapos kong lagyan ng vicks, pero nagising aq ngaun at ibang parts nmn ng katawan q ang nangangati, anu pong gagawin q. Slamat po

  40. Vern
    July 25th, 2013 @ 10:03 am

    sir albert mejo matagal ba ang pag galing ng marks kpag sensitive ang skin ng isang tao?
    kase na higat ako then nalines ko siya but after isang araw meron pren sya in my right chest! but the swollen hinde na gaano malake mejo lumiit na at mejo may kati pa ng konte at namumula pa. how can i evade this one? u said na 3-5 days bgo mawala ang mga swollen… meron po bang ibang sulusyon para 1 day or 2 days lang ang mga pantal?

  41. Reuben
    July 28th, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    May nakapagsabi sa akin na lagyan ko raw ng suka (vinegar) ang mga infected parts… Tama po ba ito? May maitutulong po ba ang suka sa paggamot nito?

  42. dan
    July 28th, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

    ung sakin po nilagyan ko ng anti-fungal, ndi po ba nakakawala un ng nahigad? nahigad po kasi ako sa leeg,

  43. Alonica
    July 31st, 2013 @ 5:37 am

    Marami po kasing higad dito sa amin, when I woke up last yesterday, super itchy po nung likod ng legs ko.. May maliliit na pantal po sya na parang butlig.. Nung hapon po nilgyan na sya ng vinegar but it’s still itchy.. Bakit po ganun?

  44. oseph
    August 1st, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

    kailangan pa pu ba talaga mag lagay ng tape???
    ……pwede pu ba ung electrical tape?

  45. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    Cellophane tape lang po.

  46. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    May nakita ka bang higad sa kama mo nung paggising mo? Baka naman may ibang saki sa balat. Kumonsulta po sa inyong doktor.

  47. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:39 am

    Ang anti-fungal po ay “laban sa” (anti) mga impeksyong fungal, tulad ng buni, an-an, o kaya alipunga. Hindi po kasi fungus ang higad. Hindi po tatalab ang anti-fungal.

  48. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    Pakibasa po ng mabuti ang naisulat sa blog post ko. Hindi po kaukulang first aid ang suka (vinegar).

  49. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    Opo, 3-5 days on average ang paggaling ng maga/pantal. Ganun po talaga. Kung nais ng mas mabilis na solusyon, pakikonsulta po sa inyong doktor (dermatologist).

  50. Albert
    August 6th, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    Pakibasa po ang naisulat ko na sa first aid. Ngunit para sa higad po ito, hindi sa paru-paro. Kung nais po, magkonsulta sa inyong doktor.

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