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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 first pair of 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.
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.
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:
- severe pain, which is usually in proportion to the size of the centipede
- swelling and redness
- swollen, painful lymph nodes in the regions of the bitten limb
- palpitations or a racing pulse
- nausea and vomiting
- local itching and burning sensations
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.
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Immediate treatment consists of rinsing the bite site in cold water. If not too painful, ice the bite site. This constricts the blood vessels so the venom does not spread. Also recommended is papain, an enzyme that breaks down protein. Papain can be found in meat tenderizer and papaya. This deactivates the majority of the centipede venom's proteins. Depending on the type of centipede and level of envenomation, this treatment may not degrade the entire venom dose and residual pain will remain.
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.
- James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.
- "Centipede Bite". Orkin. 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
- 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.