Human Bites

Human bite wounds, like animal bite wounds can be dangerous because the human mouth contains many different types of transmittable bacteria and viruses.

A person who has sustained a human bite wound that has broken the skin will need a tetanus shot within 48 hours if it has been over 5 years since their last booster.

The three general types of human bite injuries that can lead to complications are:

  • A closed-fist injury,
  • A chomping injury to the finger, and
  • A puncture-type wound to the head area caused by clashing with another person’s tooth.

First Aid for a human bite wound starts with stopping the bleeding:

  • Apply firm, direct pressure with sterile gauze or clean cloth until bleeding stops.  Wash the wound with mild soap and water for several minutes under running water.
  • Pat the area dry and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Protect the wound from further accidental injury by applying a clean gauze or bandage.
  • Change the dressing and continue to apply a fresh layer of antibiotic ointment at least twice a day.
  • Monitor the area for signs of infection such as swelling, painful redness, or puss.

Call 911 if blood is spurting from the wound and cannot be stopped within 10 minutes because deeper bite wounds may require stitches.  Tell the emergency health care provider if the person suffering a human bite to the hand has stiffness, numbness, or trouble moving fingers.  These symptoms indicate potential damage to tendons or nerves.

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Animal Bites

Most animal bites come from domestic pets; however, animal bites from non-immunized domestic pets and wild animals might transmit the rabies virus.

Rabies is a viral disease often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

Rabies is more prevalent among wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons, and less commonly carried by dogs, cats, or rabbits.

First Aid for animal bites starts with evaluating the type of animal that initiated the bite, and the severity of the wound.

  • If you suspect the bite was caused by an animal that could potentially carry rabies, seek medical attention right away.  Getting an immediate vaccination can prevent rabies from developing once the virus has been transmitted.
  • For severe animal bite wounds that have torn into, or deeply punctured the skin, try to stop the bleeding with a clean, dry cloth, and seek medical attention.   You should also seek medical attention if the bite has punctured or torn the hand or fingers.
  • If the animal bite is mild, promptly wash the wound with a mild soap then rinse the area with water for 3 to 5 minutes. When finished, pat the area dry, apply an antibiotic ointment or cream, and cover the wound with a clean bandage.
  • Monitor the area surrounding the animal bite for signs of infection.  Seek medical help if you notice an increase in redness or swelling as well as any oozing around the site.

People who have contracted rabies from a bat bite before, were often unaware they had been bitten in the first place. That is largely due to the fact that bat bites are small, so they often go unnoticed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who sees a bat inside their home or tent, or comes into direct contact with a bat in any way, promptly discusses the situation with a health care professional.

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