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Millipede dermatitis in Child
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Millipede dermatitis in Child

Contributors: Robert Norris MD, Joanne Feldman MD, MS
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Millipedes are elongated arthropods, class Diplopoda, that have 2 pairs of legs per body segment (centipedes have 1 pair per body segment). Approximately 7 000 species of millipedes are found worldwide in a variety of habitats. They live on the ground, are slow moving, feed on decaying vegetation, and are secretive, although, at times, there is mass migration.

Millipedes have no venom or apparatus for injecting venom (no fangs, biting mouthparts, or stingers). Rather, their means of defense is to squirt, up to 80 cm, a caustic liquid from pores along their sides. The liquid is composed of a variety of chemicals, such as hydrogen cyanide, phenol, and organic acids, which can induce a contact dermatitis in humans.

Skin exposure to millipede secretions can cause a burning sensation, inflammation, and a tanning discoloration of the skin that may subsequently blister and exfoliate, resulting in pigmentation and scarring. Ocular exposure can cause immediate pain and tearing and may lead to chemosis, blepharospasm, periorbital edema, conjunctivitis, keratitis, and corneal ulceration. Blindness is reported in the literature but is not well substantiated. No human fatalities have been associated with millipede secretions.


T63.411A – Toxic effect of venom of centipedes and venomous millipedes, accidental, initial encounter

403154004 – Millipede burn

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Puss caterpillar sting
  • Centipede envenomation
  • Poison ivy, oak, sumac dermatitis
  • Arthropod bite or sting
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Dermographism
  • Phytophotodermatitis
  • Scorpion sting
  • Burn (see Thermal or electrical burn; chemical burns are covered separately, by chemical agent)

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Last Updated:06/14/2018
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Millipede dermatitis in Child
A medical illustration showing key findings of Millipede dermatitis : Brown color, Burning skin sensation, Fingers, Toes
Organism image of Millipede dermatitis - imageId=3394339. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'A millipede (<i>Arthropoda Diplopoda</i>), 8 cm long, Selva Verde, Heredia Province, Costa Rica.'
A millipede (Arthropoda Diplopoda), 8 cm long, Selva Verde, Heredia Province, Costa Rica.
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.