Bites Injuries Self Help

Proper handling of injuries from animal or human bites requires experience and judgment. As a general rule, all bites that break the skin should be considered infected wounds. For this reason they should all be protected against tetanus with the appropriate tetanus toxoid booster inoculation.

If previous vaccination has not been completed within the recommended period of time (usually 10 years), human tetanus antitoxin is also administered. As soon as possible after an injury occurs, the wound should be washed thoroughly with water using the best available antiseptic soap.

Careful irrigation and cleansing of the bite will remove most of the foreign substances that would otherwise produce complications or infection. When the laceration is severe or hemorrhage is present, ligatures to close the wound may be necessary. Smaller bites are best treated with the open technique, permitting them to heal by second intention.

Human bites are among the most likely to become infected, because of the abundant flora of germs resident in the mouth. The lysozyme content of a dog’s saliva makes it less likely to contain virulent bacteria. But all animals, including cats, horses, dogs, and wild pets are likely to cause damage if they bite.

Obviously, many of these injuries can be prevented by appropriate care in handling animals. The bite of an animal infected with rabies virus is particularly serious. The animal usually exhibits strange behavior, and may be unsteady, foaming at the mouth, salivating, and unusually vicious.

Rabies or hydrophobia, as it is sometimes called, is a viral infection of the central nervous system. Untreated, all known cases result in death. Proper rabies control requires vaccination of all pets, such as dogs and cats, with careful avoidance of untamed animals.

Never pet or attempt to fondle any strange animal! If an animal suspected of having rabies has bitten someone, the animal should be quarantined with the local health department or humane society.

Within two weeks it usually becomes apparent whether rabies is present or not. If the bite is extensive or near the face, immediate inoculation of the patient with antirabies vaccine is begun. This therapy involves a series of daily injections for about two weeks.

Although painful, they may be life saving. Most emergency rooms and health departments have information as to how the antirabies vaccine can be procured and administered. It is imperative to follow through with a full course of adequate protection to save the lives of such unfortunate victims.