Animal and Human Bites - Home Treatment
Minor animal and human bites
usually can be treated at home. If you do not have an increased chance of
getting an infection, do not have other injuries, and do not need evaluation by
a doctor or a tetanus shot, you can clean and bandage a bite at home. Home
treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
To stop heavy bleeding, try firm, direct pressure on the wound. For more information, see
how to stop bleeding .
After the bleeding has been stopped, check your
symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your
Clean the wound
Clean the animal or human bite as
soon as possible to reduce the chance of infection and scarring.
- Wash the wound for 5 minutes with large amounts
of cool water and soap (mild dishwashing soap, such as Ivory, works well). For
more information, see
how to clean a bite. Some nonprescription products are available for wound
cleaning that numb the area so cleaning doesn't hurt as much. Be sure to read
the product label for correct use.
- Don't use rubbing alcohol,
hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome, which can harm the tissue and slow
Some bites cause only bruising (contusions) at the bite site
but do not break the skin. These bites usually do not become infected.
Stitches, staples, or skin adhesives (also called liquid skin)
Determine whether your bite needs to be treated by a doctor.
Bites may need to be closed with sutures, staples, or skin adhesives so that
they won't leave a large scar. Bites to the hand are not usually closed because
closing the bite wound may increase your chance of having an infection. Cat
bites are rarely closed because they are usually no larger than a puncture. For
more information, see
Are Stitches, Staples, or Skin Adhesives Necessary?
will tell you how to
take care of your stitches or staples and when to
return to have them removed.
Skin adhesives usually do not need to be removed, but your doctor may wish to
see you to check on the wound. Be sure to carefully follow your doctor's
instructions. If you are unsure of how to care for your wound or have
questions, call your doctor for instructions.
Consider applying a bandage
Most bites heal well and
may not need a bandage. You may need to protect the bite from dirt and
irritation. Be sure to clean the bite thoroughly before bandaging it to
reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
- Select the bandage carefully. There are many
products available. Do not use liquid skin bandages and moisture-enhancing
bandages unless your doctor tells you to. These types of dressings may seal in
bacteria that could cause an infection.
- If you use a cloth-like
bandage, apply a clean bandage when your bandage gets wet or soiled. If a
bandage is stuck to a scab, soak it in warm water to soften the scab and make
the bandage easier to remove. If available, use a nonstick dressing. There are
many bandage products available. Be sure to read the product label for correct
- Watch for
signs of infection. If an infection develops under a
bandage, a visit to your doctor may be needed.
- An antibiotic
ointment, such as polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin,
will keep the bandage from sticking to the wound. Apply the ointment lightly to
the wound. Antibiotic ointments have not been shown to improve healing. Be sure
to read the product label about skin sensitivity. If a skin rash or itching
under the bandage develops, stop using the ointment. The rash may be caused by
allergic reaction to the ointment.
- Use an
adhesive strip to hold the edges of a wound together. Always put an adhesive
strip across a wound to hold the edges together, not lengthwise. You can
make a butterfly bandage at home or purchase one to help hold the skin edges
- Determine whether you need a
- You may have a localized
reaction to a tetanus shot. Symptoms include warmth, swelling, and redness at
the injection site. A fever of up to
100�F (37.8�C) may occur. Home
treatment can help reduce the discomfort.