Human Bites Overview
Human bites can be either quite serious or relatively harmless. It is important to know which ones need medical attention. Human bites consist of a range of injuries, including intentionally inflicted bites, but also any injury caused by coming in contact with the teeth of another person. For example, if two children collide and the tooth of one causes a cut on the other, this is classified as a human bite.
Human Bites Causes
Human bites can be either accidental or intentional.
- Intentional bite injury: This generally happens during fights and can result in a wide range of injuries from minor bruising to partial loss of body parts (for example, ears or nose). Unfortunately, this can also be an injury seen in child abuse, sexual abuse, and self-mutilation.
- Closed fist injuries: This bite occurs when someone punches another person in the mouth or, occasionally, accidentally strikes another in the mouth during sports or horseplay. These bites can cause damaging hand injuries and can be very serious if not properly treated. It is important to share this information with your health care professional as a cut secondary to contact with a person's mouth is treated significantly different from a cut due to a sharp surface or knife.
- Accidental bites: Typical head or other body part bites occur when clashing with another person's tooth. These can be minor or, in the case of a head wound in young children, very serious.
- "I didn't know it was a bite!" category: Yes, we frequently run the risk of problems from doing things to ourselves that technically qualify as bites. For example, it is not a good idea to bite your nails because this can lead to an infection known as paronychia or a hangnail. Similarly, it is almost a reflex to suck on wounds or to kiss a child's boo-boo, but if you introduce mouth bacteria, it could lead to problems such as an infection.
- Love bites (for example, hickeys): These qualify as a human bite. However, if bruising is the only sign with no skin break, these are largely harmless. Other "love bites" cross the line into intentionally inflicted wounds and may be more serious. Any bite marks in the genital area in children need to be evaluated as a possible sign of abuse.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2015
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