Centipede Bite in Hawaii

My prior centipede post has been viewed over 4,000 times. I’ve been considering ideas on how to put a new spin on this popular topic. Thanks to Jeff I found a way. He got stung by a centipede two days ago and is really feeling the pain.

Our last post gave care ideas which I forgot and Jeff didn’t follow. Mostly because Jeff thought it was an Asian Spiny back spider bite until he saw the two puncture wounds yesterday. When the bite occurred, Jeff felt a jolt of instant pain but never saw what bit him. He was walking through tall grass wearing sandals feeding Muley. Here’s how his toe looked yesterday, and it it is even worse and more purple today.

To ease the pain I thought some warm water would help. It didn’t and actually caused increased swelling and resulted in internal bleeding of bite damaged blood vessels. (Memo to ice next time if this should ever happen again).

[pullshow]Our friend, Dr. Catherine Shanahan, gave advice on what to do next time. ”

Immediately treat the area with either meat tenderizer or stuff it into a mushy ripe papaya.

The enzymes in either treatment digest proteins in the centipede’s venom and minimize the symptoms somewhat.” Dr. Cate also suggested cleaning the toe several times a day and using a triple antibiotic ointment, elevation and rest.

Since we’re both mostly vegetarian I’ll opt for a papaya treatment next time. It sounds soothing just thinking about the texture.

I asked friends on Facebook how they treat centipede bites and received much input and support. RJ Tolodziecki has a local remedy, “dissolve Hawaiian rock salt in water and soak.”

Here are some other thoughts to keep in mind if you’re concerned about a similar fate on your Hawaii vacation. Centipedes are not found on any of our beaches so you’re safe walking barefoot. If you’re staying at a vacation rental away from the beach, you may want to check your bedding at night for any unwelcome guests. Should hiking be on your itinerary, wear socks and closed shoes.

Join the club

If you’ve been bit before and thus already a member of the SBACC (stung by a centipede club) and/or have questions about centipedes, please add to the discussion. Let’s see if this post tops 4,000 views. It will help to ease Jeff’s pain.


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21 thoughts on “Centipede Bite in Hawaii”

  1. Woke up from a deep sleep instantly feeling a sharp, piercing burn in my right shoulder. It was unmistakeable and instant! I shot upright and fumbled for the lamp switch next to the bed. Sure enough, the buggah was right on the side of the mattress just hangin out. I woke my wife as calmly as I could as I didn’t want to wake our 10 year old knowing she would never go back to sleep again. After a few attempts at explaining to my wife what just happened, it finally clicked in and she screamed…”CENTIPEDE!”
    Great! Now my 10 yearl old comes stumbling in the room, rubbing her hair away from her face groggily. I have a daughter and wife huddling behind me as I try to figure out how I’m gonna whack it cause it’s between the mattress and my night stand. I tried to hit it with my shoe but MISSED, and it haled *ss under the bed ( of course we have boxes and all kine stuff under there ). No sleep tonite in this room. Worse than the immediate pain in my shoulder was two panicked girls clinging behind me every time I tried to move a footin either direction. So all 3 of us surrounding the bed, at some distance mind you, hoping the evil b*stard would show his fangs.
    Our cat who had been sitting at the door wondering what the Hell we were doing, suddenly perked up and her ears locked on radar. She began to stalk to one side of the bed in pure stalking predatory fashion. It was pretty cool. Following behind her, she pounced and sure enough the guilty culprit was found bookin it across the floor. Boot in hand, I hit that f’er so hard it bounce a foot off the floor. ‘Pau’ one shot. Getting some hashi from the kitched, I scooped em up and flushed em down the toilet. Soon after the adrenalin wore down, the pain began. It felt like a bee sting on steroids deep inside the muscle, not just on the surface.
    I went online and found this site and began reading the threads. The PAPAYA WORKS! Instantly began relieving the pain and though it still hurts, nothing quite like before. I wanted to thank all the people who responded with posts of their experience as it was very helpful for me to find info specifically for Hawaii.

  2. Friends and I played rugby on the mud last spring and then decided to use the surrounding puddles to wash off! Tons of fun but while we were splashing it felt like i stepped on a needle. I sat down and tried to figure it out but nothing seemed wrong and my toe was just a little sore. that night it was twice it’s normal size but i toughed it out and slept. next day it was turning purple and blistered. so we thought we would go to the beach and soak it in the seawater, it helped and it was lots of fun and it rained again, totally worth it! later that night it started getting hard to walk. toughed it out one more day until about 10 pm and i decided i should go to the hospital since I can’t walk and my whole foot is starting to swell and turn green. get there and they say it was probably a centipede and i’ll need some shots in my hip. hahahaha, when they say shots in your hip, they really mean your bum. Nurse was way cool, i guess she was trying to be honest with me. \This one hurts really bad, but it won’t hurt tomorrow. the next one hurts like a bee sting and it will be sore for a couple of days!\ She was cheerful though so i really couldnt feel too bad about it. apparently the bite was infected as well so antbiotics! All in all, Rugby and puddle jumping was so worth it! and i got some really good pictures and scars. definetely wearing flipflops next time!

  3. Was camping in a VW Westfalia in Hana, Maui January 3, 2011. Had a bamboo mat on the ground in front of the side door. Stepped down out of the bus and BAM!!! I seriously thought a big rat had bitten me. I kicked out and immediately felt the effects of the venom running from my foot up my leg. That scared me but I knew there were no snakes in Hawaii. I yelled at my wife and friends, “I think I just got stung by a scorpin.” They shined a light on the top of my foot and there was a pair of bloody fang marks. “Ah bradda, you been bit by centipede!” One of the bite marks went directly into a large vein and it was bleeding pretty good. “That’s gonna hurt bad brah,” they told me. They were right.

    We were camping with some locals. One of them is a famous Maui surfer, Roth. He came running over and started sucking on my foot HARD. Wish I had video. What a heroic drunken thing to do. I soaked my foot in a bag of ice water and took a couple of ibuprofen. The pain was excruciating for about four hours. The next few days it felt like someone had hit my foot with a hammer. It never bruised, but the sensation was like the after-effects of having something like a big rock dropped on your foot. It has been over a week and the bite marks are still there. The area is still tender and itchy. I highly recommend shoes at night. We have been to Hawaii about 15 times and I have never even heard about centipedes but I surely won’t forget them now.

    Epilouge: Ironically, the day after I got bit we went geo-caching. In the first cache we found was a large plastic centipede. I had to take it home with me. Rayn Hunt Camas, WA

  4. This morning at about 5:00 I was bitten in my sleep by a brown centipede about 5 inches long, I found it crawling on the floor by the bed after jumping up from a dead sleep with burning pain on my belly. I washed the area well with soap and water and then squeezed it to make it bleed some more. Called my friends that work in the
    ER here and was told to take benadryl and
    ibuprophen and ice pack it to reduce the
    painand swelling. It hurt like hell for about 4 hours and then I slept for about 3 hours. When it woke up it didn’t hurt as much but I felt kinda woozy and light headed. Now I just need to watch for signs of infection. Wish me luck! Hope this helps others! Aloha!

  5. Howzit ,
    I dont feel too bad about acting like a whining 5yr old after reading some articles. Today about 4 hours ago was the second time being bitten by these sonofaguns. First time was awhile ago at my cousin Lono’s house in Haula (north oahu) while i was asleep on the living room floor. I woke up in the middle of the night with one mean headache. I went to the bathroom to wash my face i noticed a little redness on my head (above my left eyebrow) right where the throbbing was. I woke Lono boy up so he could check it out. He looked at my head closely and said “o-www cuz thats one centipede” i said “what da buck” and when i went back to look in the mirror i heard the lighter flick, Lono inhales, and as he blew a cloud in my face he says “ahhhh you see the two red dots right there, the dots is close thats only one baby one” then he told me to take a couple of puffs to ease the pain.shure enough after eating some midnight snacks as we talk littlebit stories about the time his or my, madas fadas sistas braddas uncles aunties cousins nephews son get bit by one centipede!!! i went back to bed.
    As i type this story my foot is throbbing. In the dark as i was taking the opala to the bin i felt a sharp pain as if a lighting bolt went through the top of my foot. As i hoped in my garage going in circles trying to figure what had happen, my wife tells me to shut up and asks why am i making so much noise.(woman-cant live with them !!! cant live with them!!!) i finally stop hopping (sorry i ment with out them) to look at my foot and shure enough those sonofaguns got me again (this time west oahu “Nanakuli”) This time the two red dots are about 3/4 of an inch apart. i had a little numbness going half ways up my leg (4inches below my knee) some swelling with heavy throbbing at the time (about 2 hours ) and now just a little throbbing , should be top shape by morning .

  6. Bit by 5 inch centipede this Thanksgiving Morning at 2:30 am. It started as a deep burning sensation then starting radiating excrutiating pain down my right arm and across my chest. It is now 7:30am and after a trip to the emergency room for pain medication and a licocaine patch, I am still in pain and starting to itch in the bitten area.

    Found the guy when I returned home, still in the bed and had the audacity to be sleeping under the covers. Caught him and quickly disposed of him down the toilet.

    I had open heart surgery last year and can say that the pain was similar to waking up in ICU after the surgery. On a scale of 1-10, the pain was a 20.

    No child, let alone an adult, should experience this bite.

    Told by the nurse in the ermergency room that a baby had been brought in with 3 bites. Poor little thing!

  7. I live out in East Honolulu. I was sound asleep when my cat started going lolo. I woke my husband up and asked him to put her out. Next i rolled over to put my hand under my pillow and I felt something bit me. I leapt ten feet out of the bed, and high tailed it to the bathroom screaming in pain. I think I used every curse word i knew. After taking two ibuprofen and drinking three glasses of wine. I was able to go back to sleep. Still hurts this morning. A little hung over too.

    1. Oh Gina,

      I’m feeling your pain. Especially relate to jumping ten feet out of bed. I love them in the garden, but in the bed is an entirely different matter.

      Aloha, Rob

  8. MauiGuy…moved out of 2 houses so far because of centipedes. Thinking about upcountry/kula. Are there centipedes up there too?!

  9. I live in upcountry Maui. An hour ago I awoke to a stinging pain in my head and knew it had to be either a giant spider or a centipede. I never was bit before, but the pain was so bad I knew this wasn’t a typical bug bite. I cleared everything off the floor and flipped the bed over… and found a big brown centipede. I hope he enjoyed the taste of my flesh because I smashed him to bits. Bastards – the pain feels like someone took a box cutter to my scalp and sliced down to my skull.

  10. I had been staying in a condo in Princevile for several days when, in a deep sleep, I scratched at something on my head. I immediately felt as if my scalp was on fire! A few minutes later, my husband awoke to my cries of pain, only to be bitten himself! We both tried in vain to ease the pain–his was not quite as acute, as he was bitten on the fleshy part right behind his armpit–but I just wanted to die. In our travel book, it said that a centipede sting can range anywhere from a bad bee sting to a shotgun blast–mine was definitely in the shotgun blast range!!!! This was one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences I have ever had.
    Cold water helped a very little, but it was all I could do because there weren’t any remedies to be found in the condo. After about 2 hours, I finally calmed down enough to sleep, but still had residual pain the next day. I definitely will never go to bed again on the islands without thoroughly inspecting the sheets!!!!

  11. Aloha,

    My parents moved to Kauai 23 years ago and I visited. We were always careful to check inside shoes, shake the sheets before getting into bed, etc. I moved to Maui in ’92 and was in a large corporate house in Wailea before finding a condo to live in. It had everything – a beautiful kitchen, a grand piano (!), a mouse, spiders, and one evening, a very large centipede making its way across the living room. Some say they travel in pairs. Sure enough, the next night, another very large centipede followed (the first one was dead by then). I moved back to San Francisco and spent years on the mainland driving my partner nuts by – still! – checking the sheets for centipedes, so I finally gave up the habit. Now I’ve moved back to Kauai at the request of an older parent, and I’ve been bitten two – !! – times over the past 3 years. Once was in the Wailua Homesteads. It was about 2 a.m. and I felt a pain of amazing acuteness sear into my back right shoulder right the way through into my chest. I was glad it was on the right side, so I didn’t panic over the thought it might be a heart attack. I was sleeping in a loft and made my way down in the darkness, then turned on a light. Got yelled at for turning on a light! Called the hospital to ask what I should do. I was told they are not poisonous and don’t worry about it. The pain reduced after about 50 minutes. I had a raised red triangle with two fang marks on my back for a couple of weeks. The second time I was bitten was recently, in a condo in Princeville. I was just waking up (my goodness they are sneaky!). I could feel its little legs on the inside crook of my arm under the pillow and thought it was a cockroach. I reached under my pillow to brush it off (these are not things you think about – you are doing them before you can think, when you’re still half asleep) and suddenly I was in hot pain. I sat up and there was the centipede, smaller this time, running up and down the little hills of the sheets. I was furious, but had just been doing sessions with a client (I’m a hypnotherapist), so I started repeating “I am enjoying this moment” (I’d heard someone with cancer had said that in the waiting room of their doctor and the doctor came out and told them the latest tests showed the cancer was gone). I kept repeating this and the pain, which felt like it was in my bone, and had traveled up my arm to my shoulder, began to recede back down my arm. I had a sore swelling, like a bruise, and a slight blue/purple hue to the red swelling for about a week – 10 days. The little fang marks are still with me a month later. My question – I have heard that some people have died a few months after a bite. Obviously if you have died you’re probably not reading this. But I wonder if there is any way to detox after a bite? My eyes have been red for a month, my skin has broken out and isn’t clearing up, and I wonder if there might be a connection? (who knows, maybe Kauai is having vog!) Also, does anyone know the symbolism of centipedes? I was dreaming about them and scorpions, spiders, bats !! repeatedly for a few months before this happened. Thank you, Many Mahalos, and Aloha!

  12. Just got home from an amazing 9 days in Kauai! No centipede action while in Poipu the first two days. However our first night in our rental house in Anahola, one caming crawling out of the shower drain when the water got turned on. A few days later I went for a 3 mile run (I really did check my running shoes before putting them on!). Got back, kicked off my left shoe and about a 5 inch centipede was scrambling furiously on the top of my foot, obviously not happy about the run it took with me! I screamed and flicked my foot, sending the thing flying across the street. Once the adreneline wore off I realized I had a small puncture on top of my foot. The spot burned for a little while but a swim in the ocean, a cold Keoki Gold beer, and a bueatiful ocean view was the perfect presciption! Aloha!

  13. Funny, we’ve been to Maui six times,even tramped thru the grass seeking out waterfalls on the road to Hana and never saw a centipede. Then we went to Kauai last April and one night when I was in the bathroom a humongus centipede slithered across the floor its many feet pumping furiously in various directions. I’m sure you could hear my scream all the way down the hallway of the hotel! We were staying at Kalapaki Beach and didn’t see any there either and the only thing we could figure is we had made a trip to Poipu Beach that day and carried two towels with us in our tote bag. Put the towels back in the bathroom when we returned. We saw quite a few plowed over sugar cane fields on the way there. Luxury Developments that ran out of funds we were told by a local. I had always heard centipedes were found near sugar cane….per lyrics in Loggins and Messina’s song: Lahaina(“in Lahaina sugar cane grows, in Lahaina living is slow, in Lahaina mangos are sweet and the centipede he crawls all over your feet”) Must have been trying to warn us eh! However, again that is on Maui and in Lahaina we have never had that doubious

  14. OUCH! I’m of the opinion that centipedes are the embodiment of pure evil.

    I’ve been unscathed thus far but I guess it’s only a matter of time… Get well soon!

  15. Hi – meat tenderizer isn’t made of meat or animal products. It’s made of the enzyme found in papaya. Papain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papain Vegetarians who don’t happen to have a ripe papaya lying around should not be shy about having a bottle of Adolf’s on hand for unfortunate stings/bites.

  16. What really helped me with a humonguous centipede bite was mud from the bottom of salt pond. First I took benedryl. then I immersed my foot in the mud ( the bite was an inch and a half long!) and kept it there in the mud for over an hour. Then put on a poultice and went to sleep finally. a couple of hours later I woke up and the pain and swelling was completely gone!

  17. WHOA! So sorry Jeff. Our son Nate got stung in MN here by an unknown insect…he got a horrible infection & is on antibiotics!

  18. SInce you are both vegetarians, do you have any vegetarian restaurants (or those with good vegetarian dishes) to recommend on each of the Islands?


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