Bites

Human and animal bites are quite common. They typically occur on the fingers and hands.

Signs and symptoms

  • Skin has been broken (not always the case)
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Clear or pus-like discharge
  • Bleeding

Intervention

Begin by disinfecting the wound. Wash thoroughly with soap and water for several minutes. Then, if necessary, remove superficial dirt by gently rubbing with a sterile gauze pad or splinter forceps that have been disinfected. If the wound is bleeding profusely, apply pressure to the injured area using a sterile gauze pad. Then, cover the wound with a bandage. Once treatment has been administered, watch for signs of infection (redness and swelling around the wound, persistent pain, pus-like discharge, fever). Due to the amount of bacteria found in cat and human saliva, these types of wounds are very prone to infection and require preventive antibiotic therapy.

You should see your doctor if:

  • The wound is deep or wide
  • The wound continues to bleed after 10 minutes, despite compression
  • You are unable to use or move the part of the body that was bitten
  • You were bitten by a human or a cat (high risk of infection)
  • You were bitten by a wild animal (ex: bat, raccoon, skunk), the attack was unprovoked and the animal is not behaving normally or if the animal was not identified (rabies vaccine may be administered)
  • You were bitten and do not know if your tetanus vaccine is up to date
  • You were bitten and have a weakened immune system (ex: diabetes, cancer, AIDS) or are taking certain medications (ex: methotrexate)
  • There are signs of infection

Prevention

Here are a few tips that should help prevent animal bites:

  • Never approach an animal that is sick or that you do not know
  • Never leave a child alone with an animal
  • Never disturb an animal when it is eating
  • Never try to pull apart animals that are fighting
  • Keep your pet's vaccinations up to date
  • When in public areas, always keep your pet on a leash
  • Choose sociable breeds and train your pet to be friendly
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