Human bites

Alternative names
Bites - human

Human bites are usually caused by one person biting another, although they may result from a situation in which one person comes into contact with another person’s teeth. In a fight, for example, one person’s knuckles may come into contact with another person’s teeth, and if the impact breaks the skin, the injury would be considered a bite.


Human bites that break the skin, like all puncture wounds, have a high risk of infection. They also pose a risk of injury to tendons and joints.

Bites are very common among young children. Children often bite to express anger or other negative feelings.


Bites may produce symptoms ranging from mild to severe:

  • Skin breaks with or without bleeding  
  • Puncture wounds  
  • Major cuts  
  • Crushing injuries

First Aid

  1. Calm and reassure the person. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap.
  2. If the bite is NOT bleeding severely, wash the wound with mild soap and running water for 3 to 5 minutes and then cover the bite with a clean dressing.
  3. If the bite is actively bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean, dry cloth until the bleeding subsides. Elevate the area.
  4. Get medical attention.

Do Not

  • DO NOT ignore any human bite, especially if it is bleeding.  
  • DO NOT put the wound into your mouth.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if
All human bites that break the skin should be promptly evaluated by a doctor. Bites may be especially serious when:

  • There is swelling, redness, pus draining from the wound, or pain.  
  • The bite occurred near the eyes or involved the face, hands, wrists, or feet.  
  • The person who was bitten has a weakened immune system (for example, from HIV or receiving chemotherapy for cancer). The person is at a higher risk for the wound to become infected.


  • Teach young children not to bite others.  
  • NEVER put your hand near or in the mouth of someone who is having a seizure .


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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