MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

Human Bites

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019
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What are the symptoms of a human bite?

  • Human bites are usually painful and leave bruises or teeth marks on your skin

  • Infected bites are painful, red, and swollen

  • If you punch someone in the mouth and get a cut on your knuckles, that's considered a human bite (a "fight bite")

  • "Fight bites" to your fist usually leave a small, straight cut over a knuckle—if a finger tendon (tissue connecting the muscle and bone) is cut, you may have a hard time moving that finger

What problems can human bites cause?

Human bites usually cause only bruises and shallow cuts. However, if someone bites a small part, such as your ear, nose, finger, or penis, they can bite it off.

  • You're very unlikely to get HIV if you're bitten by someone with HIV—there isn't much HIV virus in saliva (spit)

  • You might get hepatitis if you're bitten by someone who has the disease

  • “Fight bites” often become infected because mouth germs can become trapped deep inside your hand

What should I do if someone bites me?

You should quickly clean out your wound.

  • Clean your wound with lots of soap and water

  • Don't put alcohol, iodine, or any other kinds of antiseptics in your wound

  • See a doctor if the skin is broken open

If a body part is bitten off:

  • Wrap any bitten off parts in a clean, damp towel

  • Put them in a plastic bag

  • Put that bag in another plastic bag with ice in it

Don't put body parts in water or directly on ice.

How do doctors treat a human bite?

If a human bite tears your skin, doctors will:

  • Flush out the bite area with sterile saline (germ-free salt water)

  • Clean your wound with soap and water

  • Sometimes, close the bite with stitches

  • Give you antibiotics to stop infection

  • If you have a fight bite that's infected, give you medicine through an IV (into your vein)

Your doctor will ask you questions about the person who bit you. Your answers may help the doctor decide whether you need medicine to prevent any diseases spread by biting.

Sometimes doctors can reattach a severed body part.

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