Medical care for human bites

Human bites can range from minor to severe. Depending on the severity of the wound, it can be managed at home or necessitates medical attention in the nearest emergency department.

Minor human bites

For minor cases of human bites, it usually results to bruising or only scrapes the upper skin layer. In such cases, care involves cleansing with water and soap, application of ice and pain medications such as acetaminophen.

A tetanus shot might be required if the skin is damaged or if the individual has not been given a booster shot in the last 5 years. Antibiotics are not needed.

Deep bites

Human bites

For minor cases of human bites, it usually results to bruising or only scrapes the upper skin layer.

Aside from a tetanus shot if needed, the doctor will numb the bite site using lidocaine and thoroughly cleanse and assess the wound.

The cleansing of the wound involves gushing large amounts of water. For an open wound, large amounts of water directly from the tap are flushed into the wound.

Occasionally, a small amount of an antiseptic solution is added to the water before the wound or skin around the wound is rinsed. While cleaning, the doctor might slice out small pieces of tissue that appear dead to reduce the risk for infection.

Are stitches needed?

Doctors do not utilize stitches on cuts caused by human bites due to the high risk for infection particularly from the bacteria in the mouth that can thrive in damaged or dead tissue. Nevertheless, certain human bites especially those on the face might have a better outcome if stitches are used since the risk for infection is not high.

Some stitches might be loose close to the wound to allow drainage but not provide an environment that enables the growth of bacteria.

Remember that most cases of small-sized cuts heal over time even if stitches are not used. Oftentimes, the doctor might require the individual a follow-up appointment in 4-5 days to check if stitches can be used to seal up a large wound.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on human bites is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to provide proper wound care for human bites, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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