Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD
Human bite wounds are usually
very “dirty” wounds. The human mouth is heavily laden with germs
that are carried into the wound during biting. Infection can easily occur. Human
disease can also be transmitted by human bites. Some types of hepatitis and
other viruses can be transmitted by biting. The human immunodeficieny virus
(HIV) can be transmitted by biting, but this occurs very rarely. Any bite that
breaks the skin is at risk for infection or disease transmission. Tetanus
prevention is also necessary. Human bite wounds on the hands are a unique
problem that requires prompt
treatment to prevent long-term hand
Living With Your
With proper care, human bite
wounds rarely cause serious or lasting problems. Infection is the most serious
immediate problem. Bites in areas other than the hand should be watched closely
for signs of infection. Human bite wounds to the hand may require surgical
exploration and treatment. Redness, streaking, swelling, pain, drainage, and
fever may indicate infection. Human bite wounds are also crush wounds, so
bruising is also common. Small areas of skin breakdown can occur several days
after the bite from the crush
and thorough wound cleansing is extremely important. It is important to seek
care for human bites before signs of infection occur. Antibiotics are often
prescribed for deep bites or bites in locations such as the hand and face.
Antibiotics may be necessary by vein for some injuries. Ice packs and elevation
may be used to decrease pain, swelling, and bruising from the crush injury. It
is common to avoid or postpone wound repair with sutures in human bite wounds.
Surgical consultation is often arranged for human bites to the hand. After
evaluation of the risk of disease transmission, special treatments may be
• Promptly clean all human
bite wounds with soap and running
• Human bite wounds that break
the skin should be evaluated promptly by a
• Take all prescribed
medication as directed.
• Make sure
you have had a tetanus shot in the last 5
• Change bandages when soiled,
moistened, or at least once a day.
If signs of infection are present, seek care
• Don’t ignore
human bites to the hand. Seek care
• Don’t stop a
prescribed antibiotic until the full course is
• Don’t wait for
signs of infection to develop before you seek care.
When to Call Your
• Call your doctor for treatment for any
bite that breaks the skin.
your doctor immediately if the area becomes red, swollen, or drains
• Call your doctor if a fever
• Call your doctor if you
develop numbness or pain with movements distal to the bite.