Asthma attack warning after 'toxic caterpillar' spike

News reports this weekend have shown a sharp increase in the number of sightings of ‘toxic caterpillars’ across Southern England. The hairs on the brown-tail moth caterpillar can break off, causing an allergic reaction which could result in breathing difficulties for people with asthma.

Dr. Andy Whittamore, Clinical Lead at Asthma UK and a practicing GP, said:

“These toxic caterpillars could be dangerous for people with asthma. The small hairs on the brown-tail moth caterpillar are toxic and can trigger allergic reactions in some people if touched. These allergic reactions can cause asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and a tight chest and may lead to a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

“We would advise the 5.4million people in the UK with asthma to avoid touching this type of caterpillar to reduce their risk of having an asthma attack. Everyone with asthma should also continue to take their preventer inhaler as prescribed and make sure they carry their reliever inhaler with them at all times in case they get symptoms. For more information on how to stay well with asthma, visit”

For further information, please contact:

Thomas Dearnley-Davison, Senior Social Media & Media Officer, Asthma UK

Landline: 0207 786 4981

OOO: 07951 721 393

About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.
  • For more information about asthma please visit