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Animal and human bites

Most animal bites are not serious, but you may need to get medical help if the bite is severe or there are signs of infection.

This page is about human bites and bites from animals, such as cats and dogs, that have broken the skin. There's a separate page about snake bites.

What to do after animal or human bites

There are some things you can do after being bitten by an animal or a person.

Do

  • clean the skin around the wound with soap and warm water – you can also use antiseptic, but try not to get it in the wound

  • try to remove any objects like teeth, hair or dirt from the wound using running water

  • gently squeeze the wound so it bleeds slightly (unless it's already bleeding) – this can help reduce the risk of infection

  • press a dry dressing or clean cloth firmly onto the wound to stop the bleeding if it's bleeding heavily

  • after cleaning the wound, gently pat it dry and cover it with a clean dressing

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease any pain and swelling – children under 16 should not take aspirin

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

You've been bitten and:

  • you think there may still be objects like teeth, hair or dirt in the wound
  • the bite is hot or swollen (it may also be painful, red or darker than the surrounding skin)
  • you have a high temperature
  • fluid is leaking from the bite
  • the bite smells unpleasant
  • you were bitten on your hands or feet
  • you were bitten by a person

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

You could also go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:

You've been bitten by an animal or person and:

  • the wound is large or deep
  • you were bitten on your face or head
  • you cannot stop the bleeding

Call 999 for an ambulance if you're unable to go to A&E.

If a body part, such as part of a finger or ear has been torn off, wrap it in clean tissue and put it in a plastic bag with ice so it can be taken to hospital.

Treatments for animal and human bites

If you've been bitten by an animal or person, a doctor or nurse will check the wound.

They may:

  • clean the bite thoroughly – if the wound is very dirty, some of the affected area may need to be removed to reduce the risk of infection
  • close the wound with stitches, sticky strips or special glue, or leave it open to heal
  • give you antibiotics to stop the wound becoming infected
  • check your risk of getting tetanus and rabies – you'll be given treatment to prevent these serious infections if needed

If you've been bitten by a person, you may also be offered a blood test to check for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Page last reviewed: 23 June 2022
Next review due: 23 June 2025