The air is getting that crisp autumn chill, and the leaves are starting to turn. For many of us outdoorsy types, that means it's the optimal time to go for that last hike or camping trip before winter. It also means that animals are much more active trying to make their own preparations prior to the season's first frost. With less greenery, that also means that there are fewer places for animals to hide, which may make them more prone to wandering into areas that may be more populated. All of this can play a role in increasing the possibility for a wild animal attack, rare as it may be. Should you or a friend or family member experience a bite or scratch from a wild animal attack, there are some basic first aid tips you should be aware of.
Assessing the Wound Area
Immediately following the attack, inspect the bite or scratch to determine if it's a minor or severe wound.
- Minor wounds are where the skin is only slightly or not broken and are from an animal that you know is immunized against rabies.
- Severe wounds are any bites or scratches that are torn, bleeding badly, or are deep (like punctures or deep scratches).
First Aid for Minor Wounds
- As soon as you can, thoroughly wash the wound with soapy warm water or spray it with antibacterial cleansing spray.
- Apply antibiotic cream to the injured area.
- Cover the wound with a clean bandage
- Keep an eye on the wound for signs of infection (like pus, unpleasant odor, being hot to the touch, severe pain, or, in severe cases of infection, red streaking extending out from around the wound site).
- If the bite is on a joint, hand, foot, or finger, call the doctor as soon as possible and have it evaluated, as antibiotics are often prescribed when bites occur in these areas.
For Severe Wounds
- Apply steady pressure with a clean dry cloth (like a T-shirt or bandanna) directly to the wound site to try and stop the bleeding.
- If possible, immobilize the area and try to keep it elevated.
- Seek immediate medical attention.
Important Reminders About Animal Attack Safety
- Most attacks can be avoided with a little common sense. Never approach or handle unfamiliar animals.
- The major problem with animal bites is secondary infection. This can happen in less than 24 hours, which is why keeping the area clean is vital. Puncture wounds are particularly dangerous because they can get bacteria deep into sensitive tissues.
- Unprovoked animal bites can mean that the possibility for the animal to have rabies is high. Learn the signs of rabies and don't wait: Be seen by a doctor immediately.
- Seek immediate medical attention if the immunization status of the animal is unknown, even if the wound is minor. If the animal appears to belong to someone but you don't know if the animal has been vaccinated for rabies, still take steps to see a doctor immediately. Rabies is rare in humans, but it is a fatal disease, and early vaccination can prevent the disease from developing.
- Deep puncture wounds or bites on a joint, hand, or foot are serious and need to be treated immediately.