Centipede bite

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Centipede bite
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T63.4, X24
ICD-9 989.5, E905.4
Underside of Scolopendra cingulata, showing the forcipules

A centipede bite is an injury resulting from the action of a centipede's forcipules, pincer-like appendages that pierce the skin and inject venom into the wound. Such a wound is not technically a bite, as the forcipules are modified legs rather than true mouthparts. Clinically, the wound is viewed as a cutaneous condition characterized by paired hemorrhagic marks that form a chevron shape caused by the large paired forcipules of the centipede.[1]

The centipede's venom causes pain and swelling in the area of the bite, and may cause other reactions throughout the body. The majority of bites are not life-threatening to humans and present the greatest risk to children and those who develop allergic reactions.[2][3]


The history of a centipede bite is fairly straightforward; the victim typically sees and identifies the characteristic centipede before, or soon after being bitten.

Symptoms which are most likely to develop include:

The wound left by the bite may be accompanied by swelling, redness, and small puncture wounds which may form a circular pattern. This wound may be susceptible to local ulcerations and necrosis.


Immediate treatment of the bite site with very warm but not scalding water (42-50c, 108-122f) and washing with soap will deactivate the majority of the centipede venom's proteins. The wound should be soaked or showered in very warm water until the limb feels warmed through as the poisons easily penetrate flesh. Depending on the type of centipede and level of envenomation, this treatment may not degrade the entire venom dose and residual pain will remain.

A severe bite from a large centipede on a child, senior or person with a weakened heart can cause heart attack if untreated. This is exceptionally rare.

Individuals who are bitten by centipedes are sometimes given a urine test to check for muscle tissue breakdown and/or an EKG to check for heart and vascular problems.

Reassurance and pain relief is often given in the form of painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antihistamines and anti-anxiety medications. In a severe case the affected limb can be elevated and administered diuretic medications.

Wound care principles and sometimes antibiotics are used to keep the wound itself from becoming infected or necrotic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G. et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0. 
  2. ^ "Centipede Bite". Orkin. 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Sean P. Bush, Bradley O. King, Robert L. Norris & Scott A. Stockwell (2001). "Centipede envenomation". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 12 (2): 93–99. doi:10.1580/1080-6032(2001)012[0093:CE]2.0.CO;2. PMID 11434497.