What is it?
Animal and human bites of the hand.
What causes them?
- Bites of the hands are very common.
- Perpetrators of the bites may be animals and/or humans.
- Most frequently our hands are bitten by dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles, rabbits, domestic animals, or humans.
- Bites by exotic animals, such as monkeys, venomous snakes, e. g. rattle snakes, piranhas, occur more and more often.
- Animal bites to the hand most frequently occur on the fingers of the dominant hand.
Depending on the size and strength of a perpetrator of a bite (animal or human), it may result in a small wound or in destruction of many tissues (skin, bones, nerves, tendons) or even fragments of a hand or an extremity can be bitten off. During the bite the wound is infected with saliva or venom.
When developing in a wound, the bacteria present in the human or animal saliva can cause an infection, which may be mild, resulting in a discomfort, or may result in life-threatening complications.
One should not be influenced by the size of the bite, because small wounds left by cat’s sharp and pointed teeth can do more harm than an extensive, large teeth wound left by another animal. Small cuts and grazes usually do not bleed and as skin usually flaps over the bite they have no chance of self-purification, so the bacteria under the skin acquire favourable conditions for multiplying and development of serious infections. A similar situation takes place in case of wounds inflicted by claws.
It is very important to diagnose the inflicted damage and/or infection to the hand as soon as possible, so as to start treatment as early as possible. One should also remembers about rabies.
Rabies is still very dangerous. Infections are rare, but they can be lethal.
Mostly transmitted by cats, dogs, and wild animals.
In the case of the wound being infected with human saliva (human bites, wounds inflicted during scuffles) the risk of developing heavy infection is as high as in the case of animal saliva. In the case of wounds inflicted in a scuffle, an infection also pertains to the joints, which in case of failure to treat them may result in their damage.
Examination and diagnosing of the disease
You should definitely consult your hand surgeon if you notice the following after the injury:
- Inflammation (swelling, reddening, pain, limited mobility)
- Discharge of wound content (serum, pus)
- Red “marks” running from the wound towards the elbow and armpit
There are many factors that influence development of an infection in a wound:
- location of a wound
- dimension of a wound
- general state of health of the bitten person, e.g. coexisting diseases, diabetes, age, general weakness ( hypoimmunity)
- foreign bodies in a wound
- species of an animal which inflicted the bite
It is most important to consult a physician as soon as possible in order to assess the damage and implement the necessary treatment (antitetanic prophylaxis, antibiotic therapy, surgical treatment).
Dog, cat or other animal bites should be reported to the Bite Centre and, if possible, the animal should be observed in terms of being infected with rabies. If possible, check whether a given animal has been recently vaccinated.
Remember not to approach wild, fawning animals. Their friendly attitude may suggest that they are infected with rabies.
- Let’s teach the children safe behaviour.
- Let’s protect our hands from injury.