Living in the tropics is not all sunshine and coconuts. A small cut can easily become an infection, a bit of sun exposure can turn into dehydration and a mosquito bite could result in dengue!

Luckily we don’t have to deal with dangerous animals in Vanuatu – except for one. THE CENTIPEDE!

Well, they aren’t actually dangerous – their bites are painful but they are rarely fatal.

Here is everything you need to know about centipedes from treating a bite to getting rid of them from your home.

What is a centipede?

A centipede is a carnivorous invertebrate that is found all across the world. The bite of the centipede contains venom which means that the centipede kills it’s prey before eating it.

It is a common conception that a centipede has 100 legs – this is not true. The centipede has pairs of legs that run the length of its body, which are normally between 15 and 30 pairs of legs in total. The centipede can range in size from a few millimetres to 30 cm long.

When a centipede bites (as opposed to stings), it uses a pair of hollow legs, adapted with claws, to bite into the skin and injects venom into victims that is stored in internal glands. It can cause small puncture wounds and blisters when the centipede crawls across the skin. 

Are they common in Vanuatu?

Centipedes are not as common as ant, hornet or bee stings. Centipedes generally hide and breed within leaf litter, grass clippings, and other damp garden areas. Gardiners and people who work outdoors are most likely to be bitten as most human centipede bites occur when a a centipede is stepped on, picked up, or otherwise contacts the body.

Unfortunately there are also many stories of people getting bitten in their bed or when they put on their shoe if a centipede has taken refuge in there.

What are the symptoms of a centipede bite?

Depending on the degree of allergic reaction and the size of the centipede, the symptoms vary. Typically, bite victims have severe pain, swelling and redness at the site of the bite, with symptoms usually lasting less than 48 hours.

Other symptoms include:

  • Two puncture wounds at the site of the bite
  • Immediate and sometimes radiating pain
  • Redness and localized swelling
  • Intense itching

Severe symptoms include:

  • Dizziness, nausea, palpitations,
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Local tissue damage
  • Headache, nervousness, anxiety and vomiting.

Can you die from a centipede bite?

It is very unlikely that you will die from a centipede bite. Yes it hurts – but there have been no recorded deaths in Vanuatu because of a centipede bite.

Children, allergic patients and elderly personal are subject to severe reaction of centipede bites and should be heavily monitored, if not, taken straighten to hospital.

If you have a severe allergic reaction, symptoms include an elevated heart rate, breathing difficulty and a swollen throat. If this occurs, call Promedical immediately on 115 or 25566.

How do you treat a centipede bite?

Firstly, you must remember that centipede bites are non toxic so don’t panic! Just stay calm and do the following:

  • Use an antiseptic soap and water to wash the area.
  • For reduction of the pain use hot compress.
  • In case of swelling use ice pack or cold compress to ease out the pain.
  • In case the pain is severe take ibuprofen to counter the pain.
  • If you are itchy, use hydrocortisone cream for relief.

What happens if a centipede bites my child?

If your child has been bitten, stay calm and try to relieve the swelling by following the above instructions to treat the pain. If an arm or leg is affected, elevate it on a towel or pillow to reduce swelling. Dress your child in soft cotton clothing, which is less irritating to the skin.

If you are concerned, seek medical attention – but remember that although it is PAINFUL, it is NOT fatal. Put on some movies and try distract them from the pain as much as possible.

How do I get ride of centipedes from my house?

The best way to reduce your home’s centipede population is to prevent the pests from entering in the first place. Here’s how to create conditions that are less ideal for them.

  • Clear the perimeter around your home of leaves and other damp debris.
  • Use sticky trap or an insect spray inside the home.
  • Alternatively you can call Ezzy Kill on 23810 to fumigate your home – and why not? With the recent outbreak of dengue, there is no better time to call Ezzy Kill.
  • Seal any gaps, cracks, and crevices around your windows, doors, siding, pipes, and wiring, particularly in damp areas like bathrooms. Doing this will keep out not only centipedes, but rodents as well.