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Hollywood star hospitalised in Portugal due to toxic caterpillar

Jamie Dornan experienced “heart attack symptoms”

Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan, best known for his role in the ‘Fifty Shades’ blockbuster hit film series, had to be hospitalised last year in Portugal after experiencing “heart attack symptoms” caused by coming into contact with processionary pine caterpillars.

The story has been told on BBC’s ‘The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected’ podcast by his friend, Scottish broadcaster Gordon Smart, who was also rushed to the hospital after experiencing similar symptoms, including tingling in their their arms, legs and hands.

“I’m the son of a GP and thought, ‘This is normally the sign of the start of a heart attack’,” Gordon Smart said on the podcast.

As they had been drinking heavily the night before, including several espresso martinis, medical staff in Portugal initially believed caffeine poisoning may have been to blame.

It was only around one week after the trip that the doctors who had treated them called, informing them that their symptoms had likely been caused by coming into contact with processionary pine caterpillars.

“There are caterpillars on golf courses in the south of Portugal that have been killing people’s dogs and giving men in their 40s heart attacks,” Smart said, adding: “It turns out we’d brushed up against hairy processionary caterpillars and have been very lucky to come out of that one alive.”

The golf resort where the incident ocurred was not named in the podcast.

Processionary caterpillars are most easily recognised by their urticating hairs which they can release into the air, causing harmful reactions in animals and humans.  Their silky spiderweb-like nests can often be spotted in pine trees.

An article by Safe Communities Portugal was published in the Resident last year, providing useful advice on what to do when coming across them.

By Michael Bruxo

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