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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Animal and Human Bites
Animal and human bites may cause puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes, or crushing injuries. Most animal and human bites cause minor injuries. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to care for the wound.
Most animal bites occur in school-age children. The face, hands, arms, and legs are the most common sites for animal bites. Be sure to teach children to be careful around animals and that an animal could hurt them. Young children should always be supervised around animals.
Adult bites that cause a wound to the hand can be serious. A clenched fist striking another person in the mouth and teeth can cut or puncture the skin over the knuckles. This is commonly called a "fight bite." Tissues under the skin may be damaged, and an infection can develop.
Bites from children are:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Usually found in dirt and soil, tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound. Wounds may include a bite, a cut, a puncture, a burn, a scrape, insect bites, or any injury that may cause broken skin.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Rabies may be a concern after an animal bite if:
To clean a wound well:
If a chemical has caused a wound or burn, follow the instructions on the chemical's container or call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to find out what to do. Most chemicals should be rinsed off with lots of water, but with some chemicals, water may make the burn worse.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Minor animal and human bites usually can be treated at home. Some bites cause only bruising (contusions) at the bite site, but they don't break the skin. These bites usually don't get infected.
Try these tips for caring for a bite.
Apply direct pressure to the wound.
This may reduce the chance of infection and scarring.
These tissues include blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, or internal organs.
Most bites heal well and may not need a bandage. But you may need to protect the bite from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the bite thoroughly before you bandage it. This can reduce the risk of infection under the bandage.
An ice or cold pack may help reduce swelling and bruising. Never apply ice directly to a wound or the skin. This could cause tissue damage.
Prop up the injured area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart. This can reduce swelling.
If you are concerned that the injury is more serious, you may need to be checked by a doctor to see if you need stitches or a tetanus shot or to find out if you were exposed to rabies.
After an animal bite, notify animal control authorities. Even if the law in your area doesn't require you to report animal bites, you may wish to call animal control to report the bite. They can help you find out if the animal that bit you:
If you can't find a phone number for animal control, contact the police for the number.
To decide if you need a tetanus shot after a wound, first decide if the object that caused the wound was dirty or clean. An object is dirty if it has dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it. A clean object does not have dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it.
You will need a tetanus shot if:
If you need a tetanus shot, call your doctor to arrange for a shot.
Some people may need tetanus immunoglobulin (IG) for a wound that is at high risk for developing tetanus. The immunoglobulin is usually only needed if you have not (or do not know if you have) completed the tetanus primary vaccination series.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineH. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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