Human bites might not appear dangerous, but the risk for infection is high. These wounds have high amounts of bacteria. Even though a minor wound might appear trivial, an infection can result to severe joint infection. These can cause significant complications including the joint destruction if not promptly treated.
What are the causes?
A bite from a human can be directly caused such as a child biting another child. A human bite can also occur indirectly such as a hand striking a tooth that breaks the skin. Even a punch to the mouth can cause an injury to the knuckle joint.
In some instances, a human bite can break the skin but can cause damage to the underlying joints and tendons. If the skin is damaged, there is a possibility of infection as well as damage to the joints, nerves and tendons. An injury to the upper part of the hand can result to evident swelling in just hours.
Signs of infection
- Warmth around the bite site
- Drainage of pus
Signs of nerve or tendon damage
- Inability to straighten or bend the finger
- Loss of sensation over the finger tip
Human bites can transmit diseases to others including HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. A doctor should be consulted within 24 hours after an injury if the skin is broken.
What to do for a superficial human bite?
- Do not place the bite site in your mouth since this simply allows more bacteria into the wound.
- In case the skin surrounding the wound is not damaged, cleanse the wound carefully using water and soap or an antiseptic.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a non-adhesive bandage.
- Monitor the wound carefully for any indications of a damaged tendon or nerve. If the individual could not bend or straighten the fingers or there is numbness, seek medical care.
- In case the skin around the bite site is damaged and bleeding, you should apply direct pressure using a dry, clean cloth or towel.
- Raise the area with the bite.
- Do not clean a wound that is actively bleeding.
- Cover the bite site using a clean dressing and seek medical care.
Complications from a deep wound can be prevented by seeking medical attention within 24 hours after a bite. Surgery might be recommended if a tendon or joint infection is suspected.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on human bites is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage human bites, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.