CincinnatióMore than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every
yearómost of them children, according to the American Society of
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. One-third of all homeowners
insurance claims are related to dog attacks, and dog bite wounds are a
major cause of emergency room visits in the summer. Alexander Trott,
MD, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Cincinnati
(UC) College of Medicine recommends that all bite wounds be washed with
an antibacterial soap and water immediately. "Even a dog bite wound
where the skin is bruised but not broken must be watched very carefully
for signs of infection," says Trott. Any sign of redness, heat,
tenderness, or extreme swelling at the wound site or the lymph nodes
means that the patient needs immediate medical attention. If the skin
is broken, the patient should see a doctor.
Trott has developed
standard wound management procedures and a physician's table showing
what antibiotics work best for frequently found bacteria isolated from
animal-bite wounds. He says that sometimes the wound must be cut open
to effectively irrigate and remove severely damaged tissue.
of dog or cat bite wounds have reported infection rates to be around 5
percent. Trott emphasizes that patients should seek immediate medical
treatment for any bites from cats or humans, even if it doesn't break
the skin. "Dogs' mouths are much cleaner than humans or cats," explains
Trott. "Human mouths are like sewers. Patients with a human bite to the
hand are always admitted for intravenous antibiotics because we know
how terrible the infection can be." Human bites arouse special concern
because that can transmit Hepatitis B virus and HIV.
patients with animal bites are treated with a tetanus shot and assessed
for rabies exposure. Patients over 50, diabetics, or those with a
lowered immune system are at a higher risk for infections from a bite
wound. Bite wounds can be prevented by teaching children not to
approach, touch, or try to catch dogs or cats and not to enter a yard
with a pet while playing unless accompanied by an adult.