Human Bites Overview
Human bites can be either quite serious or relatively harmless. It is important to know which ones to worry about. Human bites consist of a range of injuries. They include intentionally inflicted bites but also any injury caused by coming in contact with the teeth. For example, if 2 children collide and the tooth of one causes a cut on the other, this is classified as a human bite.
Human Bites Causes
Human bites can be either accidental or intentional :
- Intentional bite injury: This generally happens during fights and can result in a whole range of injuries from minor bruising to partial loss of body parts (for example, ears or nose). Unfortunately, this can also be an injury seen in child abuse or sexual abuse cases.
- Seemingly intentional bites: Some bites may not be easy to classify as intentional because there is not a conscious decision on the part of the biter. The 2 most frequent situations are among very young children (often a new addition to the household is the recipient ) and among people who are mentally handicapped.
- Closed fist injuries: This bite occurs when someone punches another person in the mouth or, occasionally, accidentally strikes another in the mouth during sports or horseplay. These bites can cause damaging hand injuries and can be very serious if not properly cared for.
- Accidental bites: Typical head or other body part bites occur when clashing with someone else's tooth. These can be minor or, in the case of a head wound in young children, very serious.
- I didn't know it was a bite!" category: Yes, we frequently run the risk of problems from doing things to ourselves that technically qualify as bites. For example, it is not a good idea to bite your nails because this can lead to an infection known as paronychia or a hangnail. Similarly, it is almost reflex to suck on wounds or to kiss a child's boo-boo, but if you introduce mouth bacteria , it could lead to problems.
- Love bites (for example, hickeys): These qualify as a human bite. However, if bruising is the only sign with no skin break, these are largely harmless. Other "love bites" cross the line into intentionally inflicted wounds and may be more serious.
Human Bites Symptoms
- Signs of a Skin Break
- A skin break increases the risk of infection and makes it necessary to be sure tetanus shots are up-to-date. A skin break is often obvious but can be tough to tell in some cases. Anything that looks like the top layer of skin has come off should be considered a skin break. When in doubt, seek a doctor's opinion. A raw appearance to the area or the oozing of clear fluid are signs of a skin break.
- Signs of Infection (note that infection can occur even in properly treated bites)
- Increasing pain and tenderness: Although all bites hurt initially, the pain usually gets steadily better. If a bite begins to hurt more, this can be the first sign of infection. Increased pain from an infection is usually matched by increased tenderness when the area of the bite is touched. Typically, this begins 1-2 days after the bite but can occur even later with deeper infections.
- Increased or new redness: Some color changes can be expected at the beginning, particularly bruising and some redness, but this usually does not get much worse after the first few hours. An increase in redness is a warning sign of infection.
- Increased swelling: Some swelling is expected initially, but this usually peaks in the first day. If the bite swells up more after the first day, it may be a sign of infection. Exams and Tests
- Physical Examination: This involves looking in and around the wound to see what damage has been done. With minor bites this is often just a quick look to see if the skin is broken or not. With deeper bites the doctor may have to numb the area with medicine to get a better look
- X-Rays:Most bites will not require this unless a broken bone is possible. X-rays are often obtained on closed fist injuries and other bites to the hand. X-rays may also be obtained if the doctor believes a piece of a broken tooth may be in the wound.
- Blood Tests: Blood tests are usually not performed in human bites. Even infected bites do not usually require a blood test to make the diagnosis. If you have to stay in the hospital, chances are some blood tests will be ordered.
Human Bites Treatment
Treatment of a human bite can be anything from just ice for swelling to a trip to the operating room, depending on the bite. For serious bites, early treatment is important to give the best chance at preventing infection.
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