Centipede Sting (Child)

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.

After a sting, children will likely cry and be grouchy. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, and redness at the sting site. In most cases, symptoms go away in 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 may be given to prevent infection as well.

Home care

  • Your child may be prescribed medicines. Be sure to follow all instructions when giving the medicines to your child.

  • Apply a cold compress to the sting site for about 15 minutes at a time to ease pain, swelling, and itching. You can use a cool wet washcloth. Or you can make a cold pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes, then wrapping it with a thin towel.  Don’t put ice directly on the skin. Some children may prefer warm compresses. If you use these, check the skin often. In certain cases, warm compresses may make symptoms worse.

  • Watch your child for signs of infection (see below).

  • Watch your child for signs of allergic reaction (see below).

Prevention

To help prevent centipede stings in the future, take 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 child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

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

When to get medical advice

Call the healthcare provider right away or get medical care right away if your child:

  • Has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Has symptoms that don't go away or get worse

  • Shows signs of infection at the sting site. This includes increased redness or streaking, warmth, bleeding, or foul-smelling drainage.

  • Shows signs of allergic reaction such as:

    • Hives, itching or rash

    • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat

    • Wheezing or trouble breathing

    • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

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