What to expect with human bite wound?

Fact Checked

Human bite wounds might not seem dangerous but the risk for infection is high. It is important to note that these wounds contain large amounts of bacteria. Even though a human bite wound appears minor, an infection can lead to severe joint infection. Most cases of hand infections are caused by human bite wounds. The infection can quickly move and cause complications such as joint destruction if not promptly treated.

What are the causes?

A human bite wound can be caused directly such as in cases where a child bites another child while playing. The human bite wound can also be instigated in an indirect manner such as a hand which strikes the tooth which breaks the skin on the hand. When the mouth is punched, it can also result to an indirect bite at the knuckle joint.

What are the symptoms?

In some circumstances, a human bite wound will not break the skin, but can cause damage to the underlying joints and tendons. In case the skin is broken, there is the risk for infection as well as injury to the tendons, joints and nerves. If there is an injury on the top part of the hand, it can result to severe swelling within hours.

Human bite wound
In case the skin is broken, there is the risk for infection as well as injury to the tendons, joints and nerves.

Indications of an infection

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Warmth around the human bite wound
  • Drainage of pus

Indications of nerve or tendon damage

  • Loss of sensation over the fingertip
  • Inability to bend or straighten the finger

Diagnosing human bite wounds

The doctor will conduct an examination in which the wound is measured and check for signs of tendon or nerve damage. The doctor will check the arm for red lines which indicates spreading infection.

A blood test and X-ray will be requested. In addition, a tetanus shot is given while antibiotics are prescribed. The individual might return to the doctor after 1-2 days to confirm if infection developed or not. In case the nerves or tendons are damaged, a specialist must be consulted for further treatment. Surgery might be needed if there is an infected tendon or joint.


Human bite wounds can easily transmit diseases, including HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B or C virus. A doctor should be consulted within 24 hours if the skin is broken. Just remember that there are measures to carry out before the individual is taken to a doctor.

Superficial bites

  • Do not attempt to put the bite site in your mouth since this will only add more bacteria into the wound.
  • If the skin is not broken, wash the wound thoroughly with water or soap or an antiseptic.
  • Dab on an antibiotic ointment and wrap with a non-adhesive bandage
  • Observe the bite site for indications of damaged tendons or nerves. If the fingers could not be bent or straightened or there is numbness, seek medical care.

Deep wounds

  • In case the skin around the bite site is broken and bleeding, you have to apply direct pressure using a dry, clean cloth.
  • Elevate the affected limb.
  • Do not clean the wound that is actively bleeding
  • Cover the wound using a clean dressing and seek medical care.

It is important to seek medical attention within 24 hours after bitten in order to prevent complications. Surgery is usually indicated for tendon or joint infection. You have to be prepared to manage a human bite wound. All you have to do is to register for first aid training today.

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