Human bites occupy a unique and often underestimated space in injuries. While they might initially appear innocuous, the potential hazards lurking beneath the surface can be significant. From introducing harmful bacteria to risking severe tissue damage, human bites can be a silent predator of complications. As we explore this topic, we aim to equip professionals, especially those in education and healthcare, with knowledge that underscores the importance of protection and prevention in their fields.
Who is most at risk of human bites?
Professionals frequently face unpredictable and sometimes aggressive behaviours when navigating the challenging landscapes of healthcare and special education. Human bites have (wrongly) become an occupational hazard for psychiatric nurses, educators, caregivers and other dedicated individuals in these sectors. Often seen as oval or semilunar hematomas and abrasions, these bite marks can be the consequences of various situations, including attempts to calm an agitated patient, an unexpected reaction during hands-on teaching, or even the outcome of certain medical conditions that lead to spontaneous biting. Beyond the immediate pain and visible injury, these bites carry unseen threats in the form of bacteria and pathogens. This risk makes it imperative for professionals in these fields to be equipped with knowledge and protective gear to ensure their safety.
The dangers of underestimating human bites
In the professional realm of healthcare and special education, the physical manifestation of a bite can conceal the worrying underlying dangers. Superficial punctate lesions, which might look minor at first glance, can often misrepresent the actual depth and extent of the damage. The human mouth, home to many bacteria, boasts the second most abundant and varied bacterial ecosystem, following the gut, with over 700 species present (Deo & Deshmukh, 2019). Once introduced to the open layers of skin, these microorganisms can swiftly multiply and create vast complications in the form of infections.
Alarmingly, about 20-25% of human bite wounds result in infections, with these rates being significantly higher for bites on particularly vulnerable areas such as the hands, arms, legs, and face (Rothe et al., 2015). Streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus, and Eikenella corrodens are common culprits found in infected human bite wounds, with E. corrodens being identified as the most frequent agent leading to infections. Streptococci are found in about 50% of human bite wounds, Staphylococcus aureus in 40%, and Eikenella corrodens in 30% (Rothe et al., 2015). Whilst these strains of bacteria are often found in mouths (Sahi, 2020), the immune system can struggle to manage them when they are introduced to other areas of the body. The dangers do not stop at infections; pathogens causing serious diseases like hepatitis B, HIV and tetanus can also be transmitted through human bites (Cleveland Clinic, n.d). A heightened risk is carried by bites to the hands and arms, given the intricate network of tendons, ligaments and joints in these regions (Rothe et al., 2015). Treating infections here can be challenging due to the detailed makeup of these structures and their predisposition to swift bacterial proliferation and inflammation.
What are the consequential effects of work-related bite incidents?
Human bites' implications on healthcare professionals and special education professionals extend beyond the immediate physical trauma. For many, an unexpected bite can lead to psychological distress, often manifesting as anxiety or apprehension about future interactions. This heightened concern can adversely affect a professional's ability to perform their duties confidently. Furthermore, a significant bite injury might necessitate time off work for recovery, medical treatment, or counselling. This affects the individual's well-being and potential income, places additional strain on the workforce, and disrupts the continuity of care or education for the individuals they serve. Moreover, recurrent incidents can foster a workplace environment characterized by tension and apprehension, impacting team morale and overall job satisfaction. Thus, the domino effect of a single-bite incident is vast, underscoring the need for comprehensive preventive strategies and protective measures in such settings.
How is BitePRO® helping to prevent the effects of human bites?
At BitePRO®, we recognize the daily profound challenges and risks that healthcare and special education professionals face. Crafted meticulously with the user's safety, comfort, and needs in mind, our protective gear is an essential shield of the most vulnerable areas to bites, allowing dedicated professionals to concentrate on their core duties confidently. More than just a physical barrier, our products offer peace of mind, symbolizing a commitment to well-being and a proactive approach to occupational hazards. No one should view being bitten as 'part of the job'. By equipping staff with BitePRO® clothing, institutions send a clear message: the safety and well-being of their team members are paramount. With BitePRO® as a partner, professionals can continue making a positive difference, knowing they are protected every step of the way.
For those dedicated to ensuring safety for professionals, take a moment to explore the BitePRO® clothing range and see how proactive measures are making a difference.
For information on what to do after you have been bitten, please refer to the NHS guidance, found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/animal-and-human-bites/
Cleveland Clinic (n.d) Diseases & Conditions - Human Bites https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15745-human-bites
Deo, P. N., & Deshmukh, R. (2019). Oral microbiome: Unveiling the fundamentals. Journal of oral and maxillofacial pathology: JOMFP, 23(1), 122–128. https://doi.org/10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18
Rothe, K., Tsokos, M., & Handrick, W. (2015). Animal and Human Bite Wounds. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 112(25), 433–443. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2015.0433
Sahi, A. (2019). What Microorganisms Naturally Live in the Mouth? News Medical Life Sciences https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-Microorganisms-Naturally-Live-in-the-Mouth.aspx