Centipede bite

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Centipede bite
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T63.4, X24
ICD-9-CM 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 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.[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.

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.


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.

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.

In Barbados, a folk remedy involves applying a freshly cut onion to the site of the injury "bite" for 10 minutes. Repeat until relief is obtained.

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. PMID 11434497. doi:10.1580/1080-6032(2001)012[0093:CE]2.0.CO;2.