WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Animal bite injuries range from shallow cuts to deep, life-threatening wounds. An animal can cut or puncture the skin when it bites. Your skin may be torn from your body. Your skin may swell or bruise even if the bite does not break the skin. Animal bites occur more often on the hands, arms, legs, and face. Bites from dogs and cats are the most common injuries.
- Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
- Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
- Tetanus vaccine: A bite wound can cause tetanus. Tetanus is a life-threatening infection that affects the nerves and muscles. You may need a shot to prevent tetanus if you got the vaccine more than 5 years ago.
- Rabies vaccine: Rabies is a life-threatening infection that is caused by animal bites. The rabies vaccine helps prevent rabies.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider in 1 to 2 days:
You may need to return to have your stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
- Apply antibiotic ointment as directed: This helps prevent infection in minor skin wounds. It is available without a doctor's order.
- Keep the wound clean and covered: Wash the wound every day with soap and water or germ-killing cleanser. Ask your primary healthcare provider about the kinds of bandages to use.
- Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
- Elevate: Raise your wound above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your wound on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
Prevent another animal bite:
- Learn to recognize the signs of a scared or angry pet. Avoid quick, sudden movements.
- Do not step between animals that are fighting.
- Do not leave a pet alone with a young child.
- Do not disturb an animal while it eats, sleeps, or cares for its young.
- Do not approach an animal you do not know, especially one that is tied up or caged.
- Stay away from animals that seem sick or act strangely.
- Do not feed or capture wild animals.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- Your pain does not get better, even after you take pain medicine.
- You have nightmares or flashbacks about the animal bite.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have a fever.
- Your wound is red, swollen, and draining pus.
- You see red streaks on the skin around the wound.
- You can no longer move the bitten area.
- Your heartbeat and breathing are much faster than usual.
- You feel dizzy and confused.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.