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Centipede

This article describes the effects of a centipede bite.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Centipede venom

Where Found

  • Centipedes

Symptoms

  • Pain in the area of bite
  • Swelling in the area of bite
  • Redness in the area of bite
  • Lymph node swelling (rare)
  • Numbness at the site of the bite (rare)

People who are allergic to centipede venom may also have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Throat swelling

Home Care

Wash the exposed area with plenty of soap and water. Do NOT use alcohol to wash the area. Wash eyes with plenty of water if any toxin gets in them.

Place ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable covering) on the site of the bite for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process. If the patient has circulatory problems, decrease the time to prevent possible damage to the skin. A trip to the emergency room may not be needed unless there is an allergic reaction, but contact poison control just to make sure.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The type of centipede, if possible
  • Time of the bite

Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The wound will be treated as appropriate. If there is an allergic reaction, the patient may receive:

  • Breathing support
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Medications to treat symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

Symptoms usually last fewer than 48 hours. Severe allergic reactions or contact with exotic types of centipedes may require more treatment, including hospitalization.

References

Steen CJ, Schwartz RA. Arthropod bites and stings. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2008:chap 210.

Otten EJ. Venomous Animal Injuries. Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine - Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2013: chap 62.

Updated: 10/17/2013

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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