Injuries from Bites Can Pack Quite the Punch

Have you ever been bitten by an animal? The potential complications that could result are not to be taken lightly.

Hand injuries caused by human and animal bites prompt as many as 330,000 emergency department visits in the United States each year.

A literature review in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) outlines the potential complications of human and animal bites to the hand, the importance of early injury assessment, and the use of antibiotic and other treatment methods to avoid infection, permanent disability and amputation.

By the numbers:

  • More than half of all Americans will sustain an animal bite in their lifetimes.
  • Bites from domestic animals (primarily dogs) account for more than 90 percent of bites. In the United States, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
  • The annual health care costs associated with cat and dog bites are estimated at more than $850 million.

If a bite occurs:

  • Inspect the area carefully for any puncture wounds. Even a small wound can inject virulent bacteria under the skin.
  • If there is a puncture wound of any size, wash as soon as possible with soap and water, then seek medical advice.
  • If you see redness, feel increasing pain over time, or see red streaking up the hand or arm (or along a tendon), these are signs of a significant infection and require immediate medical attention.

Prompt treatment, ideally within 24 hours of a bite, can prevent serious injury or infection.