Animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can
become infected and spread bacteria to other parts of the body. Whether the
animal is a family pet or a creature from the "wild," scratches and bites can
carry disease. For example, cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection, can be
transmitted by a cat scratch (usually from a kitten) even if the site of the
scratch doesn't look infected. In addition, certain animals can transmit rabies
and tetanus. Human bites that break the skin are even more likely to become
What to Do
If the bite or scratch wound is bleeding, apply pressure to the
area with a clean bandage or towel until the bleeding stops. If
available, use clean latex or rubber gloves to protect yourself from
exposure to blood.
Clean the wound with soap and water, and hold it under running
water for at least 5 minutes. Do not apply an antiseptic or anything
else to the wound.
Dry the wound and cover it with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.
Phone your child's doctor. Your child may need antibiotics, a
tetanus booster, or a rabies vaccination. A bite or scratch on a
child's hand or face is particularly prone to infection and should be
evaluated by your doctor.
If possible, locate the animal that inflicted the wound. Some
animals may have to be captured, confined, and observed for rabies. Do
not try to capture the animal yourself. Look in your phone book for
the number of an animal control office or animal warden in your area.
Go to the nearest hospital emergency department if:
the wound won't stop bleeding after 10 minutes of direct
the wound is more than 1/2 inch long or appears to be deep.
the attacking animal was wild (not tame) or behaving strangely.
a body part is severed. Wrap the severed part in sterile gauze
or a clean cloth and take it with you to the emergency department.