Centipede Sting

Centipedes are long, skinny bugs with many body segments. Each segment has one pair of legs. Centipedes are more active at night. They like to live in warm, damp places. They use two pincer-like forelegs near their heads to bite skin. The pincers release a venom or poison.

A centipede sting can cause pain, swelling, and redness at the sting site. In most cases, symptoms go away within 48 hours. In some cases, more serious problems can occur. These can include infection and breakdown of tissue and skin at the sting site. Allergic reaction can also occur.

Treatment includes washing the wound. Cold compresses are also applied to the sting site. If needed, a local anesthetic or medicine may be given to relieve pain. Medicines may also be given for swelling and itching. A tetanus shot and antibiotics may be given to prevent infection as well.

Home care

  • You may be prescribed medicines to help relieve symptoms or to prevent infection. Be sure to follow all instructions for taking the medicines.

  • Apply a cold compress to the sting site for about 15 minutes at a time. This helps ease pain, swelling, and itching. Use a cool wet washcloth or crushed ice wrapped in a towel. Don't put ice directly on the skin. Note: Some people may prefer warm compresses. If you use these, check the skin often. In certain cases, warm compresses may make symptoms worse.

  • Check the sting site daily for signs of infection (see below).

  • Seek medical care right away if you notice signs of allergic reaction (see below).

Prevention

To help prevent centipede stings in the future, take these steps to limit centipede exposure in the house:

  • Reduce other household insects

  • Dry any damp areas

  • Clean debris around the house

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Symptoms don’t go away or get worse

  • Signs of infection at the sting site. These include increased redness or streaking, warmth, bleeding, or foul-smelling drainage.

  • Signs of allergic reaction. These include hives, itching, or rash; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat; wheezing or trouble breathing; or lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.

To learn more

For more information, call the National Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

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