Animal bites • How to treat them at home

If you are bitten by an animal, remember that all warm-blooded animals may carry rabies.

Animal bites - Raccoon behind a fence looking out

If possible, check with a pet’s owner about the validity of any rabies vaccinations. If it is a stray animal, check with the doctor. Cat bites can be especially infections.  Bats, raccoons, skunks  and foxes transmit most cases of rabies. Rabies treatment must be started immediately for best results (staying alive).

PREVALENCE

According to WHO, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States. That doesn’t address all the other animals that might bite people.

MEDICAL FIRST AID

  • Visit a doctor if the wound is anything but superficial
  • Immediately clean the wound with soap and water to remove saliva.  Irrigate the wound for several minutes. If you are on the beach, go into the water to wash the wound.
  • Treat the wound with an antiseptic solution.  If all you can find is a glass of vodka, use that.  It’s not ideal to use drinking alcohol because it can damage good tissue as well as fight bacteria.  Vanilla extract is high in alcohol.  See the list below for other antiseptics.
  • If you are bleeding, bandage the wound with a clean dressing.  If you have nothing available, use a clean hand to press firmly on the wound.
  • Watch the area closely and frequently.  It should not become red, painful or hot.  If it does, visit a doctor.  If you are bitten in an area known to have rabies, go to a doctor anyway.  If you are in Hawaii, you’re probably safe from rabies.
  • Be especially suspicious if the animal acts strangely. If there is a possibility the animal has rabies, you will need medical help and a rabies vaccination within 24 hours.  And then about four more shots after that over the next two weeks.
  • Apply a clean bandage to the wound if necessary. You can use an adhesive strip across a wound (rather than lengthwise).
  • Try to keep the area above heart level to reduce swelling.
  • Your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot every several years and if yours is dated, he/she may recommend a booster.
  • To prevent swelling, apply an ice pack on the wound
  • Natural antiseptic substances you can apply to wounds:
    • Castor oil and lime juice
    • Colloidal silver
    • Eucalyptus
    • Honey
    • Lavender
    • Lemon
    • Pineapple enzymes
    • Tea Tree oil
    • Vinegar

SELF TREATMENT

The suggestions below are self-treatments that others have found helpful for this condition and are offered as information for your further research.

FOODS THAT MAY PROMOTE HEALING

  • Manuka honey, topically
  • Garlic
  • Cumin seeds

TEAS AND OTHER LIQUIDS

  • Castor oil and lime juice
  • Echinacea tea
  • Goldenseal tea, internally or topically

HERBS AND SPICES

  • Echinacea
  • Goldenseal
  • Comfrey
  • Calendula
  • Astragalus tincture
  • Asafetida powder
  • Neem with aloe vera and garlic
  • Plantain leaves
  • Cumin seeds and black pepper
  • Burdock
  • Lavender compress

ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils can be administered via a diffuser for inhalation, administered topically in a carrier oil like coconut, or added to a hot bath.

  • “Anti-infection” blend (commercially available) with yea tree, rosemary and clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Helichrysum to stop bleeding
  • Lavender
  • Tea tree oil on unbroken skin

OTHER SUBSTANCES AND SUPPLEMENTS

  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO

  • Walnut and onion poultice

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

CAUTIONS

  • Cat wounds can be particularly nasty. Keep the wound clean (daily dressings) and check for infection frequently.
  • Don’t use rubbing alcohol, peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome on the wound.

PREVENTION

  • Avoid contact with a dog that is caring for puppies.
  • Avoid contact with animals who are eating; even your own pet.
  • Avoid stray animals.
  • Be calm with animals you don’t know well.
  • Be sure your own pet is well trained and vaccinated.
  • Beware of animals who are injured, even if they have been gentle when well.
  • Do not run away from animals who like to chase (dogs, cougars).
  • Do not startle a dog that is sleeping.
  • Don’t leave children unattended with an animal.
  • Never reach out to pet an unfamiliar animal.
  • Stay away from fighting animals.

CAUTIONS

Rabies is a fatal disease almost 100% of the time if you develop symptoms before having a vaccination.  Rabies vaccinations, which used to be administered with long needles into the stomach, are now administered in the deltoid muscle and are not very painful, although the shoulder may hurt for several minutes after the injection.  If you are traveling to an area with a rabies “problem,” you can have a pre-exposure prophylaxis, which will give you about two days’ protection while you hunt for a doctor and medicine.  Even with the pre-exposure shot, you will need post-exposure vaccinations, which ideally include an injection of immunoglobulin to give you protection while your body builds antibodies after the first vaccination injection (about 7 days).  If you are in a rural place in India (for example), you may not have that option.

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