I’ve been working with aggressive dogs for over 15 years, and just a few weekends ago I got bitten for the first time. I don’t know what hurt more: the bite, or the fact that my clean record was spotless-no-more!
Despite my disappointment, analyzing the incident I did everything that was in my power to manage and de-escalate the situation. My job requires me to get myself into circumstances were the propensity of receiving bites is very high. I hope you work on preventing a bite before you need to and follow this advice, but accidents do happen, so here is what to do in case you get bitten by an animal.
First: make sure there’s no danger. I managed to lock the dog into a crate before I left the room. If the animal is loose and can’t be retained, just leave the area and call animal control if necessary. Remember to use gloves when assisting somebody else.
You can treat the wound yourself if:
The bite is superficial and from a known, vaccinated animal. Deep cat scratches or bites should be checked by a doctor because they tend to be highly infectious. While complaining about having to be hospitalized my doctor told me about this lady that was in intensive care. Her cat bit her and she waited five days before coming in. Because of that she was now in great danger of losing her whole arm!
Once you are safe, the first thing to do to the wound is to clean it well with warm water and mild soap. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with sterile, loose bandages to avoid infection.
Keep an eye on it but consult with your doctor at any signs of infection. These are: redness, heat, swelling, and pus.
If the bite has broken skin you might need to start by applying direct pressure to any bleeding area. Keep the wound elevated above your heart to minimize swelling. Clean the best you can and get on your way to the doctor.
You must see a doctor for a bite that has broken skin if:
• The bite came from a stray or wild animal.
• The bite was on your hand, foot or head.
• You have any health condition that might compromise the immune system and its ability to fight infection (such as diabetes, lung disease, or cancer).
• There are broken bones or nerve damage.
Call 911 immediately if:
• The wound is bleeding profusely.
• Still bleeding after 15 minutes.
• Spurting blood
At the hospital the most common procedure is to clean and flush out the wound. Stitches are not recommended for punctures, but in some cases the wound might need some help closing. I was given one stitch on a cut worth four, and kept it just for 24 hours (the hand specialist was not happy about it; they prefer this type of wounds to “flush”).
A tetanus shot or booster will likely be given, as well as pain medication and antibiotics. In some cases (like mine) intravenous antibiotics might be needed, so you might be asked to stay; it’s not fun, but do so. Infections are quiet and fast-growing dangers—deal with them early and you will have an easier fight.