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Animal and Human Bites

Animal and human bites are extremely common. They can cause severe pain and quickly progress to infection and stiffness in the hand joints. The way to minimize the potential problems caused by the bite is early and appropriate treatment.

Animal Bites

When an animal bites a human, the bacteria in the animal's mouth can infect the open wound on the hand. These bacteria can multiply in the wound and cause infection. The result of the resulting infection can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening complications.

Many factors are responsible for the spread of infection from a bite. These include:

  • Type and location of the wound

  • Pre-existing health problems that weaken the immune system of the person bitten (such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV, etc.)

  • Delay in treatment

  • Presence of foreign object in the wound (such as a piece of a tooth broken off)

  • Type of animal that bit

Dog bites and cat bites make up the majority of animal bite cases. More infections are seen in cat bites, this is because cat teeth are sharper and more pointed, meaning deeper wounds. These bites are deeper than they are initially perceived by the person bitten. The skin usually folds over the bite, blocking the flow of fluids and blood (drainage) from inside the wound to the outside and allowing infection to develop.

The biggest problem after bite wounds is the possible infection in the wound. The hospitalization rate for cat bites, and even dog bites, is not insignificant and is higher. With quick and appropriate care, progress is seen in a positive direction.

Rabies is a very rare but fatal infection that can be caused by animal bites. Animal bites must always be reported to the doctor who performs your first examination. With the information you provide, the animal that bit you will be put under observation and checked for rabies symptoms.

Human Bite (Punch Injury)

Human bites contain bacteria in very high concentrations, so the risk of infection is high. These infections can progress quickly and cause significant complications, so early treatment is necessary.

Human bites usually occur when a person's fist is pushed into another person's mouth, such as in a fistfight. After the integrity of the skin is broken, bacteria move into the soft tissue and frequently into the joint in the hand. If this is not treated quickly, it often leads to deep joint infection and can eventually destroy the joint. Extensor tendons in the hand and fingers (extensor tendons) are usually cut by the female side of the fist impact area. Teeth may even break and remain in the wound.

Early diagnosis, antibiotics given intravenously, and early surgical intervention such as draining the infection and flushing the joint effectively treat these injuries.

Situations You Should Be Concerned About in Hand Bites

If there is swelling, redness, heat, and pain lasting more than 24 hours in the bite wound, if there is discharge from the bite wound, if red lines have formed extending from the arm or forearm, if swollen lymph nodes (glands) have formed in the elbow area or under the armpit, if there is a loss of mobility, loss of sensation in the hand or finger tips, fever, fatigue, night sweats, or tremors, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

How Are Bites Treated?

First, the bite wound is examined and the factors causing the injury are questioned. A complete bite history is reviewed, including the type and health of the animal (behavior and rabies vaccination status), the time and place of the event, the conditions of the bite, the location of the animal, and pre-hospital treatment. If you have not been vaccinated against tetanus within the last five years, it is very important to have your tetanus vaccine. X-rays can be used to determine any damage or possible broken tooth fragments in bones and joints. If an infected bite on the hand is not treated for a very long time, an X-ray can reveal evidence of osteomyelitis in the bone, which is an infection in the bone.

Animal bites require careful cleaning. The wound is washed by the doctor and any dead tissue, damaged skin, blood clots, or other particles that may be a source of infection are removed by cutting. It is important to search for the signs of lymphangitis indicated by the presence of red lines on the forearm. If the wound is infected, a culture is taken to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection and to help determine the most effective antibiotic for treatment.

Antibiotic use for animal bites depends on the specific conditions of the injury, the patient's health, sensitivity to various medications, and the appearance of the wound. Some bite wounds require the use of antibiotics through the bloodstream (intravenously), while others can be treated with oral medications. The presence of an underlying fracture usually requires bed rest and antibiotic treatment. If a diagnosis of a flexor tendon sheath or joint infection is made, surgical treatment should be performed as soon as possible.

Follow-up care is very important to make sure that infection is reduced or not developing in animal or human bite wounds and to restore the wound as close to its original condition as possible. These injuries should be taken seriously to prevent poor function of your hand.


Kiss. Dr. Utku Erdem Özer Contact

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