Human Bite

Human bite wounds tend to become infected, even when they seem minor at first. Bite wounds of the hand can be serious because the tendons and joints are close to the skin. Infection can develop very rapidly, even in a matter of hours.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will most likely:

  • Take a detailed history of the bite injury.

  • Perform a wound exam.

  • Take your medical history.

Blood tests or X-rays may be performed. Sometimes, infected bite wounds are cultured and sent to a lab to identify the infectious bacteria.

TREATMENT

Medical treatment will depend on the location of the bite as well as the patient's medical history. Treatment may include:

  • Wound care, such as cleaning and flushing the wound with saline solution, bandaging, and elevating the affected area.

  • Antibiotic medicine.

  • Tetanus immunization.

  • Leaving the wound open to heal. This is often done with human bites due to the high risk of infection. However, in certain cases, wound closure with stitches, wound adhesive, skin adhesive strips, or staples may be used.

Infected bites that are left untreated may require intravenous (IV) antibiotics and surgical treatment in the hospital.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Follow your caregiver's instructions for wound care.

  • Take all medicines as directed.

  • If your caregiver prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Follow up with your caregiver for further exams or immunizations as directed.

You may need a tetanus shot if:

  • You cannot remember when you had your last tetanus shot.

  • You have never had a tetanus shot.

  • The injury broke your skin.

If you get a tetanus shot, your arm may swell, get red, and feel warm to the touch. This is common and not a problem. If you need a tetanus shot and you choose not to have one, there is a rare chance of getting tetanus. Sickness from tetanus can be serious.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased pain, swelling, or redness around the bite wound.

  • You have chills.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have pus draining from the wound.

  • You have red streaks on the skin coming from the wound.

  • You have pain with movement or trouble moving the injured part.

  • You are not improving, or you are getting worse.

  • You have any other questions or concerns.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.