There is a risk of infection with any animal bite, no matter how small. The bite should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible to see if a tetanus or rabies injection, or a course of antibiotics, is required First aid treatment for bites is to keep the wound clean and control any bleeding.
Any animal bite requires medical attention. Deep bites can cause serious wounds, severe bleeding and tissue damage, while all animal bites can cause infection. Puncture wounds from teeth carry infection deep into the tissue, while scratches are also an infection risk. The human bite is among the most infectious.
Checking for infection
Warn the injured person to watch for signs of an infected wound over the coming days. Seek immediate medical attention if any combination of the following signs and symptoms develops:
- Increased pain
- Redness around the site of the wound
- Discharge from the site
- Unpleasant smell from the site of the wound
- Red tracks from the site of the wound to the heart
- Swollen glands
First Aid Treatment
The priority is to ensure the safety of yourself and bystanders. lf the animal is still a risk, do not approach it but call the emergency services instead.
For serious wounds
- Sit the injured person down to help reduce shock.
- Treat any bleeding by: Looking in the wound, Applying direct pressure, Elevating the site if it is a limb.
- Take or send the person to hospital.
For smaller wounds and scratches
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
- Dry the wound with clean gauze or other non-fluffy material and cover with a dressing.
- Seek medical advice.
Specific infections spread by bites
Rabies is an increasingly rare but potentially very serious, even fatal, condition carried by animal bites. Rabies in the UK is rare, but if the bite is from an animal that may have come into the country without going through normal checks, or if you are bitten overseas, then seek immediate medical attention. There is no cure for rabies but early vaccination following a bite can help develop immunity.
Hepatitis B and C
There is a small chance that hepatitis B and C may be transmitted by a human bite. If concerned, seek medical advice.
Tetanus bacteria carry a particular risk when carried deep into a wound with jagged edges or a puncture wound. Animal bites carry a potential risk of tetanus. Tetanus affects the central nervous system and can cause muscle spasms, breathing problems and sometimes death. It is also known as lockjaw because it may tense up the jaw muscles. There is a vaccination for tetanus but immunity is not lifelong and anybody suffering a potentially hazardous injury should seek medical advice on having a booster injection.