Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout
About Your Diagnosis
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
evaluation and treatment to prevent long-term hand disability.

Living With Your Diagnosis
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 injury.

Immediate 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 indicated.

The DOs
• Promptly clean all human bite wounds with soap and running water.
• Human bite wounds that break the skin should be evaluated promptly by a doctor.
• Take all prescribed medication as directed.
• Make sure you have had a tetanus shot in the last 5 years.
• Change bandages when soiled, moistened, or at least once a day.
• If signs of infection are present, seek care promptly.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t ignore human bites to the hand. Seek care urgently.
• Don’t stop a prescribed antibiotic until the full course is completed.
• Don’t wait for signs of infection to develop before you seek care.

When to Call Your Doctor

• Call your doctor for treatment for any bite that breaks the skin.
• Call your doctor immediately if the area becomes red, swollen, or drains pus.
• Call your doctor if a fever develops.
• Call your doctor if you develop numbness or pain with movements distal to the bite.