How To Treat a Human Bite

Human bite wounds are the third most common bite wounds, with dog and cat bites being first and second.  Most human bites are not serious, and do not require much more than cleaning the area.  However, approximately 10-15% of human bites do become infected, due to the growth of bacteria on broken skin.  These infections can be serious if not treated correctly.  Bites to the face are the most common, followed by the upper arms; these bites are most common in children.  A common adult bite wound is a wound to the fist, known as a "fight bite". These can sometimes require medical attention, due to the increased risk of infection to the tendons in the hand.  Here are some tips to help you treat a human bite wound:

  1. Stay calm. 
  2. Most bites do not bleed profusely, but if it is bleeding, apply pressure directly to the wound, using a clean, dry cloth, until the bleeding stops. 
  3. The next step is to clean the bite wound with a mild soap and warm running water for approximately 3 - 5 minutes. 
  4. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with a clean, dry cloth.
  5. You may then cover the wound with a clean, dry dressing.
  6. Some bites require immediate medical attention, call for assistance if the wound is on the hands, face, wrists or feet. 
  7. If a tissue was avulsed (removed) during bite, gather tissue (i.e. finger, ear, etc), wrap in a clean, sterile gauze dressing and place in a plastic bag.  Fill the bag with ice, and take with you to the nearest Emergency Department.  Often, the physician or plastic surgeon, can re-attach the severed tissue.
  8. Bites to the ear and nose, are more difficult to treat, due to the lack of circulation in the cartilage in these areas. 
  9. A tetanus shot may be necessary and is determined on a case by case basis. Many doctors will give a tetanus booster as a precautionary measure. 

These tips give an outline of the treatment for human bite wounds. The prognosis for most human bite wounds is generally good; however, quick medical attention for more serious bites is in the patient's best interest.


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