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Human Bites (cont.)

What Are the Medications for Human Bites?

Antibiotics: The decision to use antibiotics also involves a number of factors about the bite and the person who was bitten. In many cases there are no definite answers from medical research, and doctors use their judgment to determine if antibiotics are used. The current recommendations from the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) call for the use of amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin) or ampicillin/sulbactam (Unasyn) for human bites that may become or are infected because such antibiotics are usually effective against Eikenella corrodens, a bacteria species often involved in human bite infections.

Following are some general points on antibiotic use in human bites.

  • Minor bites with no or superficial skin break: Antibiotics are not needed.
  • Infected bites: Antibiotics are given either orally or by IV, depending on how severe the infection is.
  • Closed fist injuries: Antibiotics are usually needed in this human bite. When initially treated, oral antibiotics are usually prescribed. Sometimes the doctor in the emergency department may give the first dose into the muscle or veins. If already infected, these bites are usually treated in the hospital with IV antibiotics.
  • Medications to prevent transmission of HIV: The patient and their doctor should discuss the risk of transmission of HIV by a bite and the possibility of starting medications that decrease the risk of HIV transmission. The faster these medications are started, the more effective they seem to be.

What Is the Follow-up for Human Bites?

  • The important thing to remember is that a bite may become infected even with proper treatment. In general, the doctor will give the patient a list of warning signs of infection.
  • If a patient has signs of infection, do not wait for a fever to develop before contacting a health care professional.
  • Be sure to take any prescribed medication as directed for the full course.
  • Use elevation and any other treatment recommended by the doctor to lessen the risk of infection.

How Do You Prevent Human Bites?

Lessen the risk of human bites as indicated below.

  • Use mouth guards in sports.
  • Avoid fist fighting.
  • Keep a close eye on toddlers who may bite a younger sibling or playmate (males bite more often than females).
  • Institutionalized people who bite themselves or others may require protective face shields.
  • Avoid biting fingernails and sucking on or "kissing" open wounds in other people.

What Is the Prognosis for Human Bites?

The best way to ensure a good outcome of a human bite is to receive needed treatment before infection can set in. Infected bites, especially the closed fist injury and other bites of the hand, can cause permanent damage and interfere with normal function. Infections of the ear and nose cartilage can be very hard to treat. Fortunately, there are many powerful antibiotics available, so even infected human bites usually do quite well once proper treatment is started.

All human bites that break the skin need to be evaluated for the risk of transmission of HIV and the need for a tetanus booster.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE: Human Bites in Emergency Medicine Treatment & Management.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/28/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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Human bite wounds are notoriously deceptive and are perhaps the most potentially disastrous type of bite wound because of the abundant pathogenic oral flora found in humans.

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