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Millipede toxin

Millipedes are worm-like bugs called arthropods. Certain types of millipedes release a harmful substance (toxin) if they are threatened or if you handle them roughly. Millipedes can squirt toxin several inches that may cause allergic reactions in some people.

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

Hydrochloric acid (in some millipedes)

Where Found

Millipedes

Symptoms

If the millipede toxin gets on the skin, symptoms may include:

  • Staining of the skin (turns brown)
  • Intense burning or itching of skin
  • Blisters

If the millipede toxin gets in the eyes, symptoms may include:

  • Blindness (rare)
  • Inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelids (conjunctivitis )
  • Inflammation of the cornea (keratitis)

Home Treatment

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. Seek immediate medical attention. Tell the health care provider if any toxin got in the eyes.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the insect if known
  • The time the person was exposed to the toxin

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

If possible, bring the millipede to the emergency room for identification.

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.

Expectations (prognosis)

The symptoms usually go away within 24 hours after exposure. A brownish discoloration of the skin may persist for months. Severe reactions are mainly seen in tropical species. The outlook may be more serious if the eyes are involved.

References

Fritsche TR. Arthropods. In: Cohen J, Powderly WG, Berkley SF, et al., eds. Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2004:chap 247.

Schlossberg D. Arthropods and leeches. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 380.

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.

Updated: 1/24/2012

A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (12/15/2011).


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