Bitten on the hand? Skipping treatment is risky, researchers warn

Seattle – Promptly treating human or animal bites to the hand can help prevent serious infections, stress the authors of a new literature review from the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington.

Bites from animals or humans – both of which contain a broad range of bacteria in their saliva – can lead to infection, permanent disability or even amputation, according to a press release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which published the study.

Symptoms of infected bites include redness, swelling, progressive pain and fever.

To avoid complications, the researchers recommend people seek medical care for any mammal bite.

“Although many people may be reluctant to immediately go to a doctor, all bites to the hand should receive medical care,” said orthopaedic surgeon and lead study author Stephen A. Kennedy. “And while routine antibiotics are not necessarily recommended for other bite wounds, they are recommended for a bite to the hand to reduce the risk of infection and disability.”

More than half of all Americans will be bitten by an animal – usually domestic dogs – at some point in their life, according to the press release.

The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.