Most bites occur when an animal has been bothered. Animals with rabies may bite without being bothered.
Symptoms can range from a mild wound to a serious infection. Symptoms of wounds are pain and bleeding.
Signs of infection often happen 24 to 72 hours after the bite. They may be:
- Pain or tenderness
- Pus or clear discharge from the wound
- Painless lumps near the site
- Problems moving the affected area
The goal of treatment is to promote healing, reduce the risk of infection, and prevent problems. The risk of infection and problems is lowered by getting prompt medical care. Medical care is especially important for:
- Bites from any wild animal, which may carry rabies
- Cat or human bites
- Deep or large wounds
- Those who have not had a tetanus shot in 5 or more years
- Those with long term or serious illnesses
Treatment options are:
- Home care, such as:
- Keeping the wound clean, dry, and bandaged
- Elevating the wound—to speed healing
- Checking the wound often for signs of infection
- Medical care, such as:
- Cleaning the wound and removing any dead tissue
- Stitching the wound, if needed
- Bandaging the wound
- Antibiotics to prevent or treat infection
- A tetanus shot, if needed
- Surgery—for severe injury
Hospital care may be needed for those with severe wounds or infections, or certain health problems.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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