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Hand Infections Caused By Bites

By

David R. Steinberg

, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

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

Infected bites cause pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness.

Diagnosis of Hand Infections Caused By Bites

  • A doctor's examination

  • X-rays

  • Cultures

Doctors base the diagnosis of an infected bite wound on an examination. However, if the skin is broken, an x-ray X-rays A doctor can often diagnose a musculoskeletal disorder based on the history and the results of a physical examination. Laboratory tests, imaging tests, or other diagnostic procedures are sometimes... read more X-rays is often done to detect a fracture, tooth, or other foreign objects, which can cause or worsen infection.

To identify the type of bacteria that is causing the infection, doctors swab inside the wound or remove a sample of pus from the wound and try to grow (culture Culture of Microorganisms Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more ) the bacteria in a laboratory.

Treatment of Hand Infections Caused By Bites

  • Thorough cleaning of the wound

  • Antibiotics

The injured area should be thoroughly cleaned. Doctors usually do a surgical procedure to make sure they clean out the whole wound. Afterwards, they usually leave the wound open to drain. If the infection is not severe and the wound is not deep, people are given antibiotics by mouth to prevent spread of the infection. If doctors suspect there is an infection in the joint (infectious arthritis Treatment Infectious arthritis is infection in the fluid and tissues of a joint usually caused by bacteria but occasionally by viruses or fungi. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi may spread through the bloodstream... read more ), antibiotics are given by vein (intravenously) to prevent permanent destruction of the joint. Which antibiotic is effective depends on which bacteria are common in the person’s community. If infection is severe, the person is admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics by vein.

Did You Know...

  • The most important measure for preventing infection of a bite wound is to thoroughly clean and drain the wound as soon as possible.

People wear a dressing and elevate the hand as much and as often as possible, ideally above the head, to keep the wound clean and minimize swelling. People sometimes wear a splint to keep the hand immobilized in the most functional position to promote healing.

Hand Splint

This split helps keep the hand immobilized in a functional position while the wound heals.

Hand Splint
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