Every year, millions of individuals all over the world are bitten by animals. Most cases of animal bites occur on the fingers of the dominant hand, but some can also occur in the neck area or the head.
What is the exact cause?
Most animal bites are caused by dogs and followed by cat bites. Remember that the risk for infection from a cat bite is higher than a dog bite. A main issue for concern about animal bites is the possibility for rabies. Since most pets in developed countries are vaccinated, most cases of rabies occur due to a bite from wild animals such as bats, skunks or raccoons. Only a few fatalities from rabies occur and most deaths are caused by bat bites. In other countries, dog bites are the common source of rabies.
What are the symptoms?
Even if a bite from an animal does not break the skin, it can cause tearing or crushing injury to underlying muscles, bone, tendons, nerves and ligaments. In case the skin is broken, there is the possibility of infection.
The indications of an infection include pain, swelling, warmth around the wound, drainage of pus and redness around the wound. If there is damage to the nerves or tendons, the individual could not bend or straighten the finger or there is loss of sensation over the fingertip.
Diagnosing animal bites
The doctor should assess the animal bite and determine the appropriate treatment. The doctor will wash the wound thoroughly and check for signs of tendon or nerve damage. If the bite is on the arm, it will be checked for any signs of spreading infection.
Treatment for animal bites
The bite site should not be placed into the mouth. Remember that the mouth contains bacteria that can lead to an infection.
For superficial wounds, the area must be washed thoroughly using water and soap or an antiseptic such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. An antibiotic ointment can be applied and the wound must be covered with a non-adhesive bandage. To learn to recognize and manage animal bites, enroll in a first aid course today.
The bite site should be carefully monitored for indications of damaged tendons or nerves. In most cases, bruising can develop. Take note that the wound should heal within 7 to 10 days. In case the wound heals in a slow rate or there are signs of infection or damage to the tendons or nerves, it is best to seek medical care.
What to do for bleeding
The application of direct pressure should be done using a clean cloth and the bite site should be elevated. In case the area is not bleeding actively, it should not be cleaned. You have to cover the wound using clean sterile dressing and bring the individual to a healthcare facility. In case the wound is on the head, face or neck, seek immediate medical care.
When to seek medical care
The doctor will leave the wound open unless it is a facial wound. A blood test and X-ray might be required. In most cases, a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics will be given. In case the nerves or tendons are damaged, a specialist might be referred for further treatment. When it comes to animal bites from wild species, it must be reported to the public health department. The animal that delivered the bite might be captured and observed for symptoms of rabies.