Human Bites

Written by Chitra Badii | Published on August 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

Human Bites as a Health Issue

After dog and cat bites, human bites are the third most common type of bite seen in hospitals.

If you have a bite that has become infected, you may need medication or surgery.

Who Is at Risk for Human Bites?

Biting is most common among young children because they are curious, angry, or frustrated. Fighting can also lead to bites in both children and adults.

Recognizing if a Bite is Infected

A bite may be mild, moderate, or severe. You may have breaks in the skin with or without blood. Bruising may also occur. Depending on the location of the bite, you might have injury to a joint or tendon.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • swelling or heat around the wound
  • a wound that discharges pus
  • pain on or around the wound
  • fever

When to See a Doctor

Because of the amount of bacteria in the human mouth, bites can easily become infected. See a doctor about any bite that breaks the skin.

Seek medical help right away if you have pain, swelling, or redness in the area of the wound. Bites near your face, feet, or hands may be more serious. A weak immune system increases the potential for complications from a human bite.

Treating Human Bites: First Aid and Medical Assistance

First Aid

Human bites are often treated by simply cleaning and bandaging the wound.

If your child has been bitten, wash your hands with antibacterial soap before tending to the bite. If possible, wear gloves to reduce the risk of transmitting any bacteria into the wound.

If the wound is mild and there is no blood, wash it with soap and water. Avoid scrubbing the wound. Use sterile dressing to cover it. Do not try to close the wound with tape, as this may trap bacteria into the wound.

If there is bleeding, raise that area of the body and apply pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or towel.

Once the wound has been cleaned and covered, call your doctor right away.

Medical Assistance

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics to fight infections. In severe cases, antibiotics may be administered via a vein. Deep wounds may require stitches, and surgery may be necessary if there is damage to tendons or joints.

Recovery Time

Recovering from a human bite depends on its severity and whether the wound has become infected. An infection usually heals within 7 to 10 days if treated properly. Deeper bites may cause scarring and nerve damage.

Preventing Human Bites

Children bite for a variety of reasons. They may be too young to realize that they should not bite or they may be teething (when a baby’s first teeth begin to emerge through the gums). Some very young children bite because they have not yet developed social skills and biting is a way to connect with other children. Biting due to anger or the need to control a situation is also very common (OSDH, 2006).

Parents can help prevent these behaviors by teaching children not to bite. If your child bites, calmly tell them that violent behavior is unacceptable.

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