Nearly 330,000 emergency rooms visits occur each year in the United States due to some type of animal or human bite to the hand causing injury. Assessing these hand injuries early is absolutely critical to not only the proper healing of that injury, but also for the prevention of additional medical complication. Seeking medical attention for a hand bite, whether from a human or animal, is essential to receive necessary antibiotic or other methods of treatment that prevent potential infection or, even worse, permanent disability or amputation. Human saliva contains over 600 bacterial species and, as such, a bite to the hand that punctures the skin of the hand or fingers can transmit infection. A recent report in the new issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (JAAOS) highlights the importance of medical care in these situations.
According to Stephen A. Kennedy, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and lead study author, “Although many people may be reluctant to immediately go to a doctor, all bites to the hand should receive medical care. And while routine antibiotics are not necessarily recommended for other bite wounds, they are recommended for a bite to the hand to reduce the risk of infection and disability.” Human hand bites only account for two to three percent of all hand bite injuries. These types of injuries often stem from some sort of altercation such as domestic abuse or a sports injury.
Animal bites are also of great concern. While dog bites often get the most attention from a reported standpoint, cats are also a threat when it comes to hand injuries. Anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of all cat bites carry some kind of infection. Generally speaking, all people should exercise caution when in close proximity to an unknown animal. At some point in their lives, over half of all Americans will sustain a bite from an animal. Every year in the United States, around 4.5 million people suffer from a dog bite injury.
If you are in a situation where a mouth-to-hand injury occurs, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. First and foremost, inspect the hand to look for any puncture wounds, even the smallest of wounds can carry an infection. Then, seek medical care and wash with soap and water as soon as possible. When in doubt, always have a health care professional take a look at your mouth-to-hand injury.