Seeking medical attention for a human bite.
July 4, 2009 3:10 PM   Subscribe

I was bitten by a person. It broke the skin. What sort of medical attention (if any) should I seek?

Last night I was involved in a brief fight with a drunk individual at a party. I realized when I got home that he had bitten me on the back pretty severely (probably about as severe as a single human bite to the middle of your back could be). I cleaned it with alcohol and bandaged it with some antibiotic ointment (Neosporin).

When I told a friend about this they sounded surprised that I hadn't sought medical attention for this. Since the skin was broken, I no doubt came in contact with his saliva. However, he was drunk, not rabid.

I am planning on going to the doctor on Monday, but should I be more concerned and seek medical attention sooner? I'm not one who often goes to the doctor, so is there something in particular I should ask for (like a tetanus shot)?

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
The main issue is bacterial infection. Mouths are not clean places. It's better than getting bit by a cat but still not good. Can you see the wound? If it looks like it is becoming infected you should see a doctor immediately.

There's a secondary worry about viral infection like HIV since your skin was broken. HIV is not present much in saliva so unless the guy had open sores of some sort in his mouth it's very unlikely to be an issue but its probably worth asking the doctor about anyway. And getting tested in 6 months since it can't hurt and getting tested occasionally is good .
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Infections. Please seek medical attention. Bacterial mainly, viral also possible.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 3:18 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You did well with cleaning the wound and the neosporin. When you go to the doctor you don't have to ask for the correct treatment, though. Just tell your doctor "a drunk man bit me".
posted by tehloki at 3:19 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

There's a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) amount of bacteria in the mouth. I know a former dental hygienist who was bit by a mentally handicapped patient so hard that broke the flesh. The dentist had her go to the emergency room where the wound was scrubbed with a hardcore brillo type thing (at least that's the way she describes it). She said it was one of the most painful things she's ever had done. I can't remember if she got a tetanus shot, but she did have to get test, and possibly a vaccine. I'm not sure. I know she had to return twice over the next 6 months to a year for more hepatitis testing and HIV testing. This was at least 15 years ago, so I might have the specific test details wrong, not the time frame, but I could be mixing up which test occurred at what time. She was on a course of antibiotics for a while, too.

In any case, it was treated as serious business. It's possible that it was taken more seriously because the patient was mentally handicapped (from a group home) and their dental hygiene isn't usually up to par, and it is unknown what sorts of diseases he might have come in contact with. Then again, it might be no different with your case if you don't know the health and hygiene habits of the person who bit you.

Go get medical attention to make sure it's properly sanitized and see if you need antibiotics. When oral bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can cause all sorts of trouble (this is one of the reasons dentists often prescribe antibiotics prior to root canals and extractions). In case you're not significantly creeped out about the possible petri dish that is the mouth, according to this article:

The more than 100 species of bacteria, and hundreds of species of fungi, protozoa, and viruses that have taken up residence in our mouths is difficult to fathom. Microbiologists estimate that, in addition to these known species, there are up to 500 other living, breathing organisms inhabiting our mouths, although only 50 have been identified and named.

Gross, right? By the way, the bite mark on the former (the bite was the last straw for her) dental hygienist's arm lasted for for years, so you might have a souvenir from last night's party for a while!
posted by necessitas at 3:40 PM on July 4, 2009

Sorry, I meant she did have to get a hepatitis test, and possibly a vaccine
posted by necessitas at 3:42 PM on July 4, 2009

When I cut my head open in a rugby game, the doctor asked me, "Did you happen to hit the guy in the mouth when you tackled him? Is that what cut you, his teeth?"

"No, it was his elbow."

"Good, because if it were his mouth, I'd hit you with several antibiotics."

Go see a doctor.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:57 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Human mouths are nasty. Definitely get to a doctor sooner rather than later.
posted by that girl at 4:34 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing, get to a doctor and get a heavy duty antibiotic shot stat. I also got a human bite and they treated it as an emergency. Human mouths are among the dirtiest of all mouths that can bite you.
posted by cj_ at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

See a doctor. Infections, including Hepatitis are a concern. Being the weekend, go to Urgent Care, Stat!
posted by 6:1 at 5:46 PM on July 4, 2009

There was a medical show on TV recently and I was shocked to learn that doctors generally consider human bites to be significant more critical to look at than even animal bites. Only sharing this because I don't think it's common knowledge just how nasty the human mouth is..
posted by wackybrit at 6:58 PM on July 4, 2009

Human bites are pretty serious and should be treated as an emergency... if you haven't noticed any signs of infection (fever, warmth and redness above the wound site, pus, etc.), then you will probably be fine by Monday. Don't be surprised if the doctor does write you up a script for some antibiotics to be "on the safe side."
posted by honeybee413 at 8:27 PM on July 4, 2009

A tetanus shot might also be a consideration.
posted by biffa at 2:32 AM on July 5, 2009

I've been bitten two times, that I can recall, in rugby games. Once on the hand by the opposing flanker, and the other time on the chest by a dumb second row who didn't like my gentle reminder that the lineout was over. I didn't get treated for either and had no problems. But if you're concerned, an urgent care center should be able to fix you up in 15 minutes or so.
posted by electroboy at 6:13 AM on July 5, 2009

Doctors consider human bites to be significant because anything he's carrying you can almost certainly catch, whereas, you're in minimal danger of getting FIV or Dutch Elm disease. (Not that too many people get bitten by Elm trees but you get my point.)

Antibiotics are probably in order.

Necessitas' quote ab out 100 species of bacteria, et al living in your moth is probably in error. It's probably a lot more! (Most of them belong there, though, so don't freak out or anything. You'd miss them if they were gone.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:22 AM on July 5, 2009

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