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What you should know about animal bites to the hand

dog biteWhen people think of hand injuries, what usually comes to mind are conditions stemming from repetitive stress or physical trauma from accidents at work and sports. There’s one common source of injuries to the hand, however, that’s important not to overlook: animal bites.

Even though many of us share our lives with animals, particularly beloved pets, we usually don’t think of their ability to give us severe biting injuries. And if they do bite us, we may find ourselves dismissing the injury as less serious than it actually is. It’s important not to underestimate the damage a bite can bring about, especially if it’s delivered to the hand.

Animal bite effects

Animal bites can lead to a number of problems, including crushed bones, tendons, and ligaments, severed fingers, scarring, extensive bruising, deep punctures, excessive blood loss, and infection.

Even if an animal isn’t wild or rabid, it’s imperative to get immediate medical attention after an animal bite to the hand. Bites from cats, for instance, are known for their higher risk of infection, given that their teeth can pierce rather deeply into your flesh. Even if you don’t seem badly injured, it’s not enough to try to clean out the wound on your own; get your hand checked by a doctor as well, as soon as possible.

Treatments

Depending on the severity of the bite and its location on your hands or fingers, there are any number of treatments you may need to receive. You may have to undergo certain shots and receive antibiotics in case of infection; you’ll also be expected to continue looking out for signs of infection, such as swollenness and pain in the area of the bite.

Other treatments may involve surgeries, including reconstructive surgery. You may also have to undergo physical therapy to regain the proper use of your hand and fingers.

Prevention

Animal bites aren’t 100% preventable, but there are some measures you can take to protect yourself. For instance, don’t approach animals you don’t know, particularly if you see them wandering around on their own or behaving in strange or aggressive ways; you can contact animal control services to ensure that they’re taken off the streets. Also, even when interacting with an animal you’re more familiar with such as a pet, try not to provoke it into attacking you by tormenting or teasing it.

Given that our first point of contact with an animal is usually our hands, as we reach out to pet or feed it, we need to always be mindful about the potential for hand injuries. We need to do our best not only to prevent animal bites but also to get immediate medical attention, given the vulnerability of our hands and fingers.