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Human Bite

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What should I know about a human bite?

A human bite is any wound that you get from coming into contact with a person's teeth. The wound may be deep and cause injury to bones, muscles, and other body parts. Human bites are often more serious than animal bites. Wounds are more likely to become infected because of the germs in a person's mouth.

What are the signs and symptoms of a human bite?

You may have the following around the bite area:

  • Cuts, bruises, or swelling
  • Bleeding or pus
  • Redness, tenderness, and warmth around the wound
  • Difficulty moving the wounded area or deformed skin
  • Fever

How is a human bite diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will look closely at the injury, including the area around it. Your provider will check to see if the skin is broken and how deep the wound is. Your provider will also look for other problems or signs of infection. Your provider may check your health history, including other illnesses, medicines you take, and past surgeries. Tell your provider which vaccinations you have received, such as tetanus and hepatitis B. Tell your provider when and how you were bitten. You may have any of the following:

  • Wound culture: This is a test to grow and identify the germs that may be in your wound. This helps healthcare providers find out if you have an infection and what medicine is best to treat it.
  • Blood tests: Your healthcare provider may order these tests to check for an infection.
  • X-ray: This is a picture of your bones and tissues in the bite wound area. Healthcare providers use the pictures to look for broken bones, injury, or foreign objects.

How is a human bite treated?

Treatment will depend on how severe the wound is, its location, and whether other areas are affected. It may also depend on the length of time you have had the injury. You may need any of the following treatments:

  • Clean the wound: The wound will be cleaned with soap and water or antibacterial solution. This helps wash away germs and decrease the chances of infection. Flushing with clean water further cleans the wound. This is done under high pressure, using a needle or catheter tip and large syringe. Objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound will be removed.
  • Medicines: Your healthcare provider may give you antibiotic medicine to fight infection. You may also be given medicine to ease your symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and fever. Tetanus shots, antivirals, and immune globulins may be also be given.
  • Stitches or surgery: Your wound may be left open until it heals or it may be closed with stitches. You may need surgery to repair a broken bone or damaged joint, tendon, or nerve. Rarely, you may need surgery to rebuild the body part with the bite wound.

How should I care for my wound?

  • Rinse the bitten area with water. Clean it with mild soap and water to prevent infection.
  • Use a clean cloth to apply direct pressure to the wound. Do this to stop any bleeding.
  • Keep the injured area still to decrease pain. This may be done with a splint and bandage.
  • Sit or lie so the bite area is raised above your heart. This will decrease swelling. Put pillows under an injured leg when lying in bed. A sling may be used if your arm or hand is injured.

What are the risks of a human bite?

Medicines used to treat a human bite may cause nausea or vomiting. You may develop soreness, redness, or swelling where a tetanus shot was given. Untreated human bites may lead to more serious problems, such as swelling and infections. Severe swelling may keep prevent blood from flowing to your hands and feet. Infection may spread to other parts of your body and this can become life-threatening.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin rash, itching, or swelling after taking your medicine.
  • You have numbness or tingling in the area of the bite.
  • You have pain or problems moving the injured area or get tender lumps in the groin or armpits.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have trouble swallowing and your jaw and neck are stiff.
  • You have trouble talking, walking, or breathing.
  • You have increased redness, numbness, or swelling in the bitten area.
  • Your wound does not stop bleeding even after you apply pressure.
  • Your pain is the same or worse even after taking medicine.
  • Your wound or bandage has pus or a bad smell, even if you clean it every day.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.