Are Centipedes Poisonous or Dangerous?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: October 19, 2022
Image Credit pitaksin/Shutterstock.com
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Centipedes have quite intimidating appearances – elongated bodies with numerous legs – but are centipedes dangerous? They are the epitome of creepy crawlies. Their eerie facade corresponds well with their fierceness as arthropods. They are carnivorous and contain venom, efficient in stinging and killing their prey. Despite their venomous nature, centipedes are not dangerous to humans. They are not aggressive either and do not initiate attacks. However, once provoked or threatened, centipedes can bite in self-defense. This should not cause concern, as centipede bites can be painful but are often not fatal. Yet, some people may develop allergic reactions to a centipede’s venom.

Centipede Bites

Are centipedes poisonous or dangerous - Tiger centipede
A centipede uses its venom to sting and kill its prey.

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Centipedes are not known to attack humans. However, if you accidentally corner or come in contact with them, they may panic and bite in self-defense. Centipede bites can be exceedingly painful and can break skin tissue, especially if the centipede is huge enough. The bigger the centipede is, the more impact it can deliver through its bite. Although centipedes use their venom in stinging and killing their prey, such as insects and worms, their venom has no health complications on humans. 

One of the main reasons many people avoid centipedes is because of their extremely painful bites. While their bites are often not fatal or dangerous, they can still cause tremendous pain, swelling, and a stinging feeling that may stay for up to 48 hours. 

All centipedes can bite humans and other animals, yet some much bigger species can have a more damaging impact in terms of bite wounds and allergic reactions. Smaller species of centipedes have smaller and weaker pincers that are not sharp and strong enough to cut through human skin.

Are Centipedes Dangerous to Humans?

Centipede Bite - Irritation from Centipede Bite
Though centipedes are not dangerous to humans, their bites can cause skin irritation.

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Despite their frightening appearance, centipedes are not dangerous to humans. However, their bites normally cause redness, swelling, and pain around the bite site. Some types of centipede can have stronger toxins in their venom that can cause allergic reactions.

Centipedes lack teeth, so they use their two clawed, pincer-like forelegs adjacent to their heads to puncture through human skin. These pincers release a venom that they use to kill their prey. This venom is not as dangerous to humans, but some centipedes contain venom that induces toxic chemicals like serotonin, histamine, and cardio-depressant toxin-S. Like bee stings, these toxins can cause allergic reactions to some people. 

Centipede bites are easy to identify because of the unique dual puncture marks on the skin. The puncture marks area is normally red and swollen and can be very painful. Centipedes inject their venom through their pincers, and the amount of venom injected determines the victim’s pain. Smaller centipedes produce less venom in their bites, while larger centipedes deliver more venom, which causes their sting to be more painful.

As soon as you get bitten, the site of the bite will develop redness and swelling along with intense pain. This can last for a few hours to several days. However, some people may develop allergic reactions from the centipede’s venoms. Signs of an allergic reaction to a centipede’s bite include chills, itching, nausea, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, extreme swelling of the bite site, and heart palpitations. Once the fever rises to 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher, you should call a doctor right away.

There has been one incident of anaphylaxis resulting from a centipede’s bite. Anaphylaxis is an intensely negative reaction to venom, medication, or food. Although this happens very rarely, people still need to get proper medical attention once an allergy symptom surfaces.

Are Centipedes Poisonous?

Are centipedes poisonous or dangerous - House centipede
A centipede’s venom is only fatal for insects and small animals.

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Centipedes have venom, which is only fatal for insects and small animals, such as rodents. Centipedes are not poisonous to humans but can still leave painful damage through their bites. A research study found that centipedes can put down an average-sized mouse within 30 seconds using their venom, which suggests that centipedes can affect mammals depending on their size.

When bitten by a centipede, you first need to wash the wound with warm soap and water. You can also apply a cold compress onto the site of the bite to dampen the sting and swelling. Sometimes a centipede’s bite is so severe it needs an anesthetic to relieve the pain. Some people can also take tetanus shots to prevent any infection from the venom. 

Are Centipedes Dangerous to Dogs?

Most centipedes are not poisonous or dangerous to dogs, yet some really large and wild species can cause dogs intense pain and severe reactions. Some centipedes with stronger venom can be fatal for dogs and even cats. Your dog or cat can develop a bump or hive from the sting, excessive drooling, lack of appetite, restlessness, and obvious pain and discomfort. The best thing to do when this happens is to take them to the vet. However, as far as typical house centipedes are concerned, they cannot cause such severe pain to your dogs because their venom is not strong enough to hurt these mammals.

How to Avoid Centipede Bites

Centipedes will typically run away when you try to get close to or corner them. The best way to avoid their bites is to refrain from handling or picking them up. Make sure to keep your children away from them as well, as they can bite whenever they feel cornered. To help prevent getting bitten by centipedes, you should start limiting the centipede exposures within your home by reducing insects inside your household. Centipedes feed on small insects, so the more insects that reside in your home, the more you attract centipedes. Make sure to dry areas around the house too. Centipedes prefer dark, damp places, so they often settle in floor drains, basements, and gardens. 

Are Centipedes Poisonous or Dangerous - Centipede

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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