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Show full transcript for Animal and Human Bites video

In this lesson, you'll learn what to do when you come across patients who've been bitten by animals and/or humans.

There are a few considerations that differentiate animal and human bites. However, for the most part, general first aid care will be the same for both.

How to Treat for Animal and Human Bites

As always, the first thing you want to do is make sure the scene is safe and that your gloves are on. Make sure you have your rescue mask with a one-way valve handy and introduce yourself to the victim.

"Hi, my name's _____. I'm a paramedic. I'm going to help you."

Let's quickly differentiate between minor wounds and serious wounds.

A minor wound is defined as bites that caused teeth marks, bruising, or scratching. When you encounter minor wounds, simply wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. For scratches, apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, then cover the area with a clean bandage.

A serious bite wound is one in which the skin has been punctured or torn and is bleeding. A victim with an open bite wound must seek advanced treatment from a physician due to the high risk of infection.

A serious bite wound can include severe bleeding. Unless the wound is still oozing or spurting blood, wash the area with soap and water, apply sterile dressing, and seek advanced medical treatment.

If the wound is still bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean dry cloth or sterile gauze pad and first stop the bleeding. Apply a bandage once the bleeding has been controlled.

If your serious bite wound does include arterial or severe bleeding, apply direct pressure, call 911, and watch for signs of shock.

A severe bleeding incident is one in which the wound is spurting or pulsating blood and the bleeding is difficult to control.

Special Considerations for Human Bites

The most common type of human bite occurs among young children who are curious, angry, or frustrated. Children at day care centers are most at risk for human bite wounds.

Most human bite wounds among children are harmless, as more serious child bite wounds are very unusual. The biggest threat when it comes to human bites is infection, as human saliva contains hundreds of species of bacteria. In fact, a bite wound is more likely to become infected if it came from a human versus an animal.

Pro Tip #1: For any human bite wounds that break the skin, the patient will need to seek advanced medical care due to the risk of infection. And while highly unlikely, bloodborne pathogens like HIV and hepatitis B or C can be transmitted by human bites.

Special Considerations for Animal Bites

Most animal bites come from domestic pets like cats and dogs and typically involve young children. The biggest threat with animal bites, even domesticated animals, is the risk of rabies.

If the animal bite included the skin being punctured by a non-immunized animal, or from an animal whose immunization status is unknown, the patient will need to be treated by a physician immediately.

Pro Tip #2: Most rabies cases involve wild animals, like foxes, raccoons, skunks, and the most common rabies carrier of them all – bats. If you suspect that a patient was bitten by one of the above, keep in mind the need to seek swift medical treatment for rabies.

Warning: Tetanus can be a concern in both animal and human bites. If a patient suffered a deep bite wound and he or she hasn't had a tetanus shot in more than five years, a booster shot should be encouraged.

When it comes to animal and human bites, just following the general first aid guidelines, particularly for bleeding control and infection control, will encompass the majority of the treatment you provide.

A Word About Animal Bites

Dog bites are the most common among all types of wild and domestic animals. It's important that when a person is bitten, that they are quickly removed from the situation if possible. It's equally important to do so in a way in which you're not endangering yourself or others.

Clean minor wounds with soap and clean water and do your best to control bleeding with major wounds. If the patient is bleeding severely, apply pressure and control it as best you can until advanced medical personnel arrive.

Tetanus and rabies immunizations may be necessary, so it's vital that bites from any wild or unknown domestic animals be reported to the local health department or another agency according to local protocols. If the animal is still loose, follow local protocols regarding contacting animal control to capture the animal. Try to obtain and provide a description of the animal and the area in which the animal was last seen.