A bite wound describes an injury to the skin and the underlying tissue by the teeth of a living being (usually an animal). In many cases the injury itself is not very dangerous; however, there is a not inconsiderable risk of infection, which can cause more severe disease processes.
What is a bite wound?
According to electronicsmatter.com, a bite wound is an injury that – as the name suggests – was caused by a bite.
In this way, not only the skin but also the underlying tissue is often injured. There is therefore bleeding that can vary in strength.
Bite wounds can vary in depth, depending on how badly the bite was bitten and which living creature caused the wound. The most common are dog bites, but cats, horses or humans can also cause a corresponding injury through a bite.
Bite wounds often consist of bruises and lacerations, always depending on the nature of the culprit’s teeth.
The term bite wound directly describes the cause of the injury. It is a so-called mechanical wound that is caused by forceful action through teeth.
Most bite wounds are animal bites. Children in particular are often affected, as they often cannot handle animals properly and are therefore bitten more quickly.
According to statistics, around 80% of all bite wounds come from dogs who do not know how to defend themselves otherwise. In disputes, human bites sometimes occur, which due to the nature of human teeth are usually less deep than dog bites, for example.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
A bite wound usually does not require an explicit diagnosis, because in most cases the person affected actively experienced the event. Bite wounds often come from animals, and here most often from dogs. A distinction is made between different types: In the case of a sharp-edged bite wound, a tooth or several teeth have usually penetrated the bite area vertically and left it again on the same path. This creates a punctual, but often deep, injury.
The depth determines the duration of the healing process. In the case of a tear and bite wound, the attacker bites a piece of material out of the attacked area. These wounds are usually less painful at first, but often take longer to heal and more scarring.
Typical symptoms of the bite wound are severe pain and moderate to heavy bleeding. It depends on how big the injured vessels are and how well the affected area is supplied with blood. For example, a bite wound in the calf bleeds less than a bite wound in the hand.
In any case, a doctor should be consulted in the event of a bite wound, as the wound must be professionally cleaned, disinfected and often also stitched. The attending physician also checks whether an active tetanus vaccination is available or whether it needs to be made up for. It must also be checked whether the attacking animal may have contracted rabies.
Diagnosis & course
A medical examination after an animal or human bite can quickly clarify which injury has occurred and to what extent. For the doctor, it is also relevant how the bite came about, which animal is involved and what medical history the person concerned has.
Since a local infection occurs in almost 50% of all cases after a bite wound, this information is important for an appropriate and effective therapy. If an infection occurs, this manifests itself as redness, swelling, pain or the formation of pus. If left untreated, it can, in the worst case, affect the entire organism and / or lead to serious illnesses.
Bite wounds can trigger a wide variety of complications. First of all, there is a risk that the wound could become infected with bacteria and dirt. Bite wounds from wild and free-roaming animals are particularly dangerous, because if there is no vaccination there is a risk of rabies or tetanus infection. Cat bites often reach the bone and can lead to infections in the joint cavities.
Complications can also arise if the wound is not just external, but is accompanied by injuries to the bones or to the muscle and nerve cords. This can lead to sensory disturbances and paralysis, but also to displaced fractures and later misalignments. Bite wounds more often lead to pain and fever symptoms, which can lead to a variety of complications in children, the elderly, pregnant women and high-risk patients.
Bite wounds are often associated with trauma and, as a result, psychological impairments. The treatment of bite wounds can be complicated if the wound does not heal completely or if it gapes again after suturing (dehiscence). In order to avoid complications and long-term consequences, bite wounds should always be treated by an emergency doctor and then treated and cured under medical supervision.
When should you go to the doctor?
A bite wound should always be examined by a doctor, even if it is only superficial injuries. This is because various diseases can be transmitted, such as rabies. Blood poisoning can also result from an existing bite wound. Anyone who opts for medical and drug treatment in such a case has a good chance of a quick and complete recovery.
However, if you do not seek treatment by a doctor with an existing bite wound, you are putting yourself at great risk. Possible pathogens can spread throughout the body, causing a serious infection. Headache, nausea, vomiting and a high temperature can also occur. If these symptoms occur immediately after a bite wound, a doctor should be consulted at the latest.
Otherwise there is even an acute danger to life if the existing bite wound is not treated by a doctor or with appropriate medication. For this reason, the following applies: A bite wound should always be treated with appropriate medication or by a specialist as soon as possible. This is the only way to guarantee complete and rapid healing.
Treatment & Therapy
Affected people often cannot tell at first glance whether a bite wound requires medical treatment or whether it will heal on its own. In particular, small injuries with little blood loss are often underestimated. Still, a doctor should be seen to avoid infection.
In addition to providing initial treatment for the injury, the doctor also takes special care of disinfecting the affected area and thus preventing inflammation. For this purpose, the tissue can be treated with special medical rinses. It is often advisable to take antibiotics for a few days. The patient’s existing vaccinations are also checked, because bite wounds can cause rabies, hepatitis or tetanus and thus pose a threat to health and life.
If necessary, missed vaccinations will be made up for (this is especially the case with tetanus). If the bite wound is very deep, it may have to be sutured, which the doctor does on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. Before visiting a doctor or the hospital, patients should ensure that the bite wound is covered with sterile covers, if possible, to prevent germs from entering.
If a bite wound is treated accordingly, it usually heals without any problems. Most of the time, however, scars remain visible forever. However, larger or infected wounds may require long and intensive treatment, especially if the patient has a difficult medical history.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis for a bite wound is directly linked to the type of bite wound and the severity of the injury. Superficial bite wounds, in which only the upper layer of the skin was affected, are less serious than deeper bites and flesh wounds. In addition, there are animals in which a bite is basically to be assessed as harmless than in others.
In about half of all cases, the wound is infected – particularly often with dog, human or insect bites. Bacteria that penetrate the wound from the outside also play a role here, although the dangers partly depend on the vaccination status. If such an infection is not treated appropriately, it can spread to the entire body and in the worst case lead to serious complications or death.
Cleaning and subsequent care are decisive for the prognosis of a bite wound. If a wound is properly cared for, there are no complications to fear. Occasionally, surgical measures to close the wound are indicated. The healing time depends on the severity of the injury and varies accordingly between a few days and several weeks.
A more severe bite injury can lead to trauma and the development of a phobia aimed at the respective animal. The extent to which this requires treatment and to what extent this further restricts the person concerned must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Since a bite wound is an injury, there cannot be complete prevention. However, special care should be taken when dealing with animals, especially if children are also involved. In principle, it is important to ensure that all persons are vaccinated so that there are no serious after-effects in the event of a bite. If in doubt, a doctor should always be consulted if there is a bite wound with a skin lesion.
Corresponding follow-up care is very important and significant in the case of a bite wound, as otherwise unnecessary complications can arise. After medical treatment, a bite wound should be carefully observed. Infection may occur if the wound has been contaminated with bacteria. If you forego all follow-up examinations at this point, you are putting yourself at great risk.
In particularly bad cases, there is even a risk of blood poisoning, which can lead to death. In addition, the formation of an abscess is possible. During this process, pus accumulates, which must be treated by a doctor. Anyone who opts for regular follow-up examinations for a bite wound can count on a smooth healing process. Such examinations are absolutely necessary with such a wound, as numerous different complications and side effects can arise.
Of course, the severity of the existing bite wound should also be taken into account. Small superficial bite wounds of course also require follow-up examinations, since the said complications can also arise at a later point in time. In the event of a bite wound, follow-up examinations must take place in the subsequent healing process. Otherwise, the person affected must expect considerable after-effects, which in many cases are even life-threatening.
You can do that yourself
A bite wound must first be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The use of special rinsing solutions may prevent further infection of the wound. Then the wound can be covered with a plaster or bandage. For larger injuries, sterile compresses or wet plasters from the pharmacy are a good choice.
However, large bite wounds should always be treated by a doctor and, if necessary, surgically closed in order to minimize the risk of infection and blood loss. In addition, vaccination protection should be checked and refreshed if necessary. For further wound care, it is advisable to take care of the injured part of the body and observe it. If the wound does not heal well and becomes infected, for example, a doctor should be consulted.
If the wound heals well, the healing process can be accelerated with coconut oil, honey, aloe vera or white vinegar. Another home remedy is the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial plantain, which can be applied to the cleaned bite wound in the form of grated leaves.
Finally, do not scrape off a formed crust and protect the damaged area well from solar radiation. Regular fluid intake and the intake of plenty of vitamins A, C, E and proteins also promote the healing of a bite wound.