Centipedes have claws at the front of their body. These claws are connected to venom glands. The centipedes are able to bite with these claws and deliver venom. Centipedes normally use the venom to paralyze the insects that they eat.
Centipedes often bite children who try to pick them up or play with them. They also bite adults, especially when they are gardening. Adults also receive bites in their homes when they pick up items that the centipede is using as a shelter.
Small species of centipedes often cannot break the skin of a human, so the victim only receives a scratch. Large centipedes can easily break the skin. Victims receive two punctures and a sudden, sharp pain.
Centipede venom contains several chemicals. Scientists have found that the venom of the giant desert centipede, Scolopendra heros, contains a cytolysin. Scientists are still studying the other chemicals that make up centipede venom.
If a centipede bites, most people experience swelling, redness, and itching. These symptoms usually diminish quickly and disappear in a few hours.
A number of people react more strongly to centipede venom. They experience swelling and tenderness around the bite site. Sometimes they have a sore where they were bitten. These people may have the symptoms for several weeks.
A few people are allergic to centipede venom. Their symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea, and even changes in blood pressure.
Experts suggest that first aid for centipede venom should address the symptoms. The victim is encouraged to wash the bite site with soap and water. This will reduce the chance of infection, especially if they scratch the bite later.
Cold compresses or ice can reduce swelling and ease the pain. Ice should be wrapped in a washcloth and alternated – 10 minutes on and then 10 minutes off – to avoid skin damage.
Bite victims should be observed closely. If symptoms of allergic reaction begin to appear, seek medical attention.