Animal bites: First aid

Animal bites are common. Most are caused by dogs and cats. Cat bites can look minor, but they can be serious because a fang puncture can leave bacteria deep in the wound.

These guidelines can help you care for a minor animal bite, such as one that only breaks the skin:

Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the bite with a clean bandage.

Seek prompt attention if:

The wound is a deep puncture or you're not sure how serious it is. The skin is badly torn and bleeding significantly -- first apply pressure with a bandage or clean cloth to stop the bleeding. You notice increasing swelling, redness, pain or oozing, which are warning signs of infection. You have questions about your risk of rabies or about rabies prevention. If the bite was caused by a cat or a dog, try to confirm that its rabies vaccination is up to date. If the bite was caused by a wild animal, seek advice from your doctor about which animals are most likely to carry rabies. Bats often carry rabies. And people have been infected without obvious signs of a bite. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in contact with bats -- or even those who are sleeping and awaken to find a bat in the bedroom -- seek medical advice about rabies shots, even if they don't think they've been bitten. You haven't had a tetanus shot in the past five years and the wound is deep or dirty. You may need a booster shot.

Source: Mayo Clinic


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