We received a question from a reader recently via the All About Worms Facebook page about what we think is a millipede or centipede in her shower. The question has a bit of a backstory, so we’ll quote the relevant part of the reader’s message and then move on to address her concerns: “I had an episode of Vertigo yesterday and I thew up in the trash can. I cleaned the trash can out in the shower. So I am kinda freaking out thinking that it might have been inside me! Or hopefully it is just a coincidence that is was in there.” The reader is first of all wondering what she found, and she is also wondering if the creature has its origin in her body.
First, here is the picture the reader submitted along with her question:
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As the reader mentions, and as you can obviously tell, the image is bit blurry, but it allows us to discern some basic features of this creature. First, the creature appears to have antennae, which can be made out if you look at the head of the creature, which is at the top of the picture. The antennae, coupled with the creature’s long body, leads us to suspect that our reader found either a millipede or centipede. The defining characteristic of both creatures is their numerous legs, and normally this is what we would look to confirm that our reader found a millipede or centipede, and then to rule out one or the other. In the picture above, we can’t really make out any legs, but if you look really closely, there is kind of faint “glow” surrounding the creature’s body. We suspect these are tons of small legs that have been blurred in the out-of-focus picture.
The best way distinguish millipedes and centipedes from one another is to look at how many pairs of legs they have per body segment. Centipedes have only one pair per body segment, whereas millipedes have two (except for on the first three body segments, which have one pair each). Obviously, this level of detail can’t be seen in the picture above. Moving on to other characteristics, centipedes tend to have longer antennae then millipedes, and the above creature does appear to have a fairly long antennae. However, the legs of centipedes are also longer than millipede legs and tend to extend out from their bodies. In contrast, millipede legs are generally tucked under their bodies, and thus are a lot harder to see. This would seem to suggest that the creature above is a millipede. Since we can’t be sure, though, our reader should check out our recent article about millipedes and centipedes, which describes their differences in more depth. Based on this information and our reader’s firsthand experience, we think she should be able to figure out what she found. Both millipedes and centipedes commonly surface in homes, so she needn’t be alarmed by what she found. It’s probably just an errant creature that made its way into the house, and it likely would have naturally died in a few days since an indoor environment is normally too dry for either creature.
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Regardless of whether she found a millipede or centipede, or even if she didn’t find a millipede or centipede, we think there is basically no chance this creature came from her body. The types of worms found in the human body are generally parasitic worms that infect the intestines (e.g., tapeworms), not creatures that you throw up perfectly intact into your trashcan. So, it seems basically impossible that the creature pictured above came out of her body, unless she, if you’ll forgive the example, swallowed the whole thing moments before throwing it back up. That said, obviously if this occurs again, she should confirm this with her medical provider, as we are wormologists, to use a regrettable neologism, not doctors.
So, to recap, we think our reader found a centipede or millipede, which is nothing to be concerned about, and it is all but impossible that it came from inside her body. Hopefully this gives our reader some peace of mind.