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MSD Manual

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Introduction to Bites and Stings


Robert A. Barish

, MD, MBA, University of Illinois at Chicago;

Thomas Arnold

, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
Click here for the Professional Version

Many creatures, including humans, bite when frightened or provoked. Others include

Bites may cause injuries ranging from superficial scratches to extensive wounds and often become infected with bacteria from the mouth of the biting creature.

Certain animals, insects, and arthropods can inject venom (poison) through mouthparts or a stinger. These venoms range in toxicity from mild to life threatening. Even mildly toxic venoms may cause serious allergic reactions. Creatures known for their stinging bites include

Doctors diagnose most bites and stings by talking with and examining the person. If a wound is deep, x-rays or other imaging studies are sometimes done to look for teeth or other hidden foreign material. The most effective way to prevent infection and scarring is usually thorough cleaning and proper wound care, done as soon as possible. Doctors usually ask about a person's tetanus vaccine history. If necessary, a booster shot is given.

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