Human Bites - When to seek medical advice

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 04 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Prof Cathy Jackson, 04 Jul 2017

It is usually wise to get bite wounds checked out, however small they seem. Always seek medical advice in the following situations:

  • The bite does not stop bleeding.
  • The bite was on the knuckles of your hand, your fingers, your face or your ears.
  • The bite is deep and appears to involve other tissues other than your skin (such as tendons or bone).
  • You do not know the person who bit you.
  • The person who bit you has, or is at risk of having hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.
  • You think the bite wound has become infected. If the skin around the wound is becoming more red and hot and painful, this may be the case. Also if you develop a high temperature (fever), or sweats and/or chills.
  • A small child or baby has a bite to the head.
  • You have not completed a course of tetanus vaccinations with boosters. Or if you are not sure about your tetanus vaccinations.
  • Your immune system is not as effective as it should be. This might be due to not having a spleen, or due to medication, or chemotherapy, or an illness such as AIDS. Diabetes also makes you more prone to infections.

Usually the most appropriate place to attend will be A&E. This is particularly the case if an X-ray or stitches might be needed. A&E departments are also usually the best placed to advise on the need for testing and treatment for viral infections such as HIV or hepatitis. However, for small wounds, from low-risk people, your GP will be able to assess whether you need antibiotics or not, and treat you if necessary. Also if you think a bite is starting to become infected, your GP will normally be able to advise without you having to go to hospital.

Further reading and references

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