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Human Bites: Care Instructions


The biggest danger from a human bite is that it might get infected. Usually the wound will not be stitched. Taking good care of your wound at home will help it heal and reduce your chance of infection. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent infection and a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last 5 years or do not know when you had your last one.

Your wound may heal in less than a week, or it may take longer, depending on how bad it is. The larger it is, the longer it will take to heal.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Your wound may itch or feel irritated. A little redness and swelling are normal. Do not scratch or rub the wound.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The skin near the bite turns cold or pale or it changes colour.
  • You lose feeling in the area near the bite, or it feels numb or tingly.
  • You have trouble moving a limb near the bite.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the wound.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.
  • Blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.
  • Your pain is getting worse.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.