Centipedes are predators. They eat insects, spiders, and other centipedes. The large centipedes even eat lizards, birds, and small animals. They have a pair of claws at the front of their body. The claws have ducts that can deliver venom. The centipedes use the venom to paralyze their prey.
Centipedes live in dark, humid environments – the kinds of places where they can find insects. When they move into homes, centipedes commonly go into basements and crawl spaces. If they get into the living space, centipedes often hide in closets.
Centipedes do not look for people to attack. However, if a person tries to pick up a centipede, he will usually get a bite. People also get bitten when they put on garments or shoes that they have not worn in a long time.
Small centipedes may scratch a person without breaking the skin. Larger centipedes have large, strong jaws. They can deliver a painful bite. To many people, a centipede bite is like a bee or wasp sting. The reaction to the bite depends on the age and health of the victim.
Most people who get a centipede bite feel a sharp pain. They have some swelling at the bite site. The bite site often itches. These symptoms usually begin to go away in a few hours. For a small number of people, the swelling and tenderness can last for a few weeks. These people may even notice a sore at the bite site.
A few people are very allergic to centipede venom. These people may have headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even changes in blood pressure. These symptoms sometimes do not appear for an hour or more.
Experts suggest that bite victims wash the site with soap and water. This can help prevent infection if they scratch the bite. An anti-itch cream can reduce the itching. A cold compress can ease the pain and reduce the swelling. If ice is used, experts recommend applying it for 10 minutes and then removing it for 10 minutes.
Very young children may have a serious reaction to a centipede bite – especially if the centipede was one of the large topical centipedes. Elderly people and people who have been ill might also have a serious reaction. A bite victim should be observed closely. If there are signs of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention.