Being bitten by an animal can be a painful, frightening and unexpected experience, and can even be life-threatening, depending on the creature. If you are in a high-risk area for animal bites, or have a job that regularly exposes you to animals, it is important that you know about effective methods for prevention of both bites and subsequent infections.
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Human beings may be the top species on the global food chain, but we have also chosen to live our lives among animals. From the pets we keep in our homes to the wild animals that we expose ourselves to in certain environments, we do have a certain level of interaction with beasts that can potentially do us harm. Animal bites can range from harmless nips to full-on animal attacks in the wild, and the potential danger should not be taken lightly. Most animal bites are lacerations on the skin, caused by the teeth, that commonly bleed if larger blood vessels are damaged. Animal bites are particularly dangerous because they can expose the victims to any infections that animal currently has, as well as bacteria and other pathogens that can cause infection or disease. Tetanus and rabies (typically from bat bites) are the most common problems that arise following an animal bite, not to mention the pain of being bitten and the wound itself!
The other danger of an animal bite occurs when the incident happens in the wild, without proper medical supplies or personnel on hand. This can lead to infections and other unpleasant complications for someone who has suffered an animal bite. The most frequent animal bites are dogs, cats snakes, ferrets, parrots, skunks, raccoons, and bats, but larger animals like bears and wildcats are also a danger. Many animal bites seem unprovoked, but there is usually a good reason. Therefore, if you are putting yourself in situations where you are exposed to unknown pets or wild animals, you should know the best strategies to prevent animal bites and infections.
Prevention of Animal Bites and Infections
Various ways to prevent animal bites and infections include getting a tetanus booster, paying attention to signals from animals, having first-aid knowledge and thoroughly cleansing the wound in case of an animal bite.
Stick With What You Know
If you aren’t used to being around animals, and are unsure of proper precautions, then it is best not to just jump into the world of animal handling. Furthermore, if you don’t know an animal, such as one you may encounter in the wild, then you shouldn’t seek out contact with it. They may seem cute or hungry, and while it may seem harmless, never forget that these are animals, and their actions are often difficult to predict.
Ask To Play With Others’ Pets
Petting a stranger’s dog is hardly something unusual, but before you get too close to anyone’s dogs or cats, be sure you know if they are generally friendly, or if their own knows of certain triggers that can cause them to become aggressive. Beyond that, always be gentle with your treatment of pets. They may be “domesticated”, but there are still instinctual fight-or-flight responses that can turn into a bite if they feel threatened in some way.
Stay Out of Their Territory
For outdoorsy people, spending time in close proximity to wild animals is a big part of your life. Knowing the territory, being able to read the signs in the environment, and having a good deal of common sense can help you stay away from wild animals, particularly larger mammals, such as bears, moose, wolves and wildcats. Listen to local guides and read up on areas where you might be camping or trekking through. If possible, avoid areas of known animal activity, especially if those animals are hibernating. Many times, animal bites and attacks happen when a human surprises or wakes up an animal in their habitat.
Get a Tetanus Booster
Even if you don’t commonly come in contact with animals, it is important to get a tetanus booster from time to time, just to keep yourself protected. Tetanus is one of the most common outcomes of being bitten by an animal, and it can be a very serious condition. Getting a tetanus booster, particularly before a long trip or journey into the wild, is just a smart thing to do.
First Aid Knowledge
Having some basic knowledge of first aid is a good life skill to have, regardless of whether you commonly come in contact with animals. That being said, if you are able to properly treat a simple wound with antiseptic and bandages, then you are one step closer to preventing an animal bite from becoming infected. Always bring a first aid kit along when you are going on a long hike, or knowingly traversing an area with wild animals.
While not all animal bites are life-threatening, it can be psychologically jarring and can change your perception and behavior around animals. Animals seem to have a sense when you are uncomfortable or scared, which can often make them more unpredictable and aggressive. You should be in a positive frame of mind when engaging with any animal, rather than emoting fear or other pheromones that animals can detect.
Keep Your Food Stored
If you are out in the wild, a good way to bring on an animal attack is to leave strong-smelling food within reach of these beasts. Not only should you keep your food in an airtight cooler or container that keeps the smell from escaping, but you should also store the food far away from where you are sleeping or camping. Animals don’t like having their meals interrupted, and are more likely to attack or bite you in this situation.
Don’t Handle Unless Educated
If you know that you aren’t properly trained or comfortable holding an animal or handling one, then don’t try to be cool to show off. For example, handling snakes and lizards can be very different from holding a kitten, and you should be aware of the intricacies of animal-handling before you try it out. Animals will respond with a bite if they feel they are being threatened or mishandled, so if you aren’t educated and confident in what you’re doing, stop and think!
Just like humans, animals can give off plenty of signals that they are feeling threatened or aggressive. Raised hackles on the back of a cat, bared teeth for dogs, and other common indicators are meant to show other animals and humans that they are ready to defend themselves. If you are sensing that an animal is hostile in any way, do not attempt to soothe it or approach it.
Thoroughly Cleanse the Wound
Even if you don’t have an excessive amount of experience with first aid, you can always be proactive with cleansing any wound you may incur from an animal bite. If you can quickly clear out the venom, saliva or other pathogens, there is a chance that you can prevent any sort of further infection. Always clean out the wound with pure water and soap, if available.