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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cat Bite Wound Care

Knowing how to handle a first-aid situation can help avoid a lot of pain and aggravation. Incidents are never planned and always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times but it is so important to know the wisest methods to handle it. Recently a friend had the misfortune of receiving a bite from handling a terrified cat. The way she dealt with the situation resulted in additional pain, expense and time lost from her job. At least the cat was one of her own and she didn't have the commotion of worrying about rabies.

Puncture wounds from cat bites are notorious for infection. A typical cut type wound usually bleeds profusely which helps flush out dirt and bacteria. Puncture wounds don't bleed as much so the body cannot flush out the microbes. Such wounds tend to close over quickly which is not what you want since it could seal in any brewing infection. An oxygen-free environment such as this enables bacterial such as the tetanus bacteria to thrive.

To reduce the risk of infection, (this soak is great for wounds in general), wash the puncture wound thoroughly with soap and water, being sure to wash off all the soap as this could irritate the wound. Prepare an epsom salt and tea tree oil warm water soak to help reduce inflammation and oxidize the wound. The heat and salinity inhibit proliferation of bacteria. Epsom salts are crystals of hydrated magnesium sulphate.
 According to the Epsom Salt Council, epsom salt soaks can raise magnesium levels and improve blood circulation and skin integrity. Adequate circulation and oxygen saturation are necessary for wound healing. Epsom salt is not like table salt, it will not burn. Don't put salt directly on the wound.

Tea tree oil is known as the Australian wonder, renowned for its unbelievable antimicrobial qualities. Its wide spectrum of action makes it perfect for the home and travel first-aid kit. It can be found at most pharmacies and natural food stores. Look for it in 1 oz. amber glass dropper bottles. You want true therapeutic essential oil.

1. Fill a basin with water as hot as you can stand
2. Add a few tablespoons of epsom salts and stir till dissolved
3. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil
4. Soak for about fifteen minutes
5. Let the area dry thoroughly
6. Add a drop of tea tree oil directly to the wound opening (tea tree can be applied without dilution but be aware of sensitivity)
7. Cover lightly with a sterile bandage, you want the wound to stay clean but also be exposed for oxygen supply and to stay dry
8. Repeat the soaking three times a day

  • Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or spinal cord injuries can cause a person to not feel temperature appropriately. Always check the water temperature with your hand or elbow before submerging your limb in the water to avoid a burn.
  • Ask your doctor if epsom salt soaks are appropriate for your wound. Do not use epsom salt soaks on an actively infected wound or a wound with nonviable tissue.

 Tea tree oil is a good choice because of its antimicrobial properties until the wound begins to heal from the inside out.

Calendula/Comfrey Healing Balm

 Don't use herbal salves containing comfrey, plantain or aloe until the wound begins to heal from the inside out. These herbs are great healers but you don't want the wound to close over too soon. Give the bite a few days and then these herbal type salves can offer their cell-repairing properties to help with healing and hopefully prevent a scar.

 Even with home treatment it is important to notify your doctor to check when the last tetanus shot was administered. Tetanus boosters are usually given every ten years but with an incident it may be given if five years have elapsed.

Explain to your doctor how you have taken care of the wound and be sure he/she approves. You may not need to make an appointment but at least they have record of the incident and you received advice. Depending on your physician he/she may not prescribe antibiotics unless necessary.
Keep a watch for signs of infection:
Redness, warmth, swelling, pus, increased pain or a foul smell. Should you notice red streaks on the skin radiating from the injury get to the doctor as soon as possible. You will need antibiotics.

What happened with this friend was the error of procrastination due to the inconvenience of the whole thing. She didn't soak the wound and bound it tightly with a bandage. She waited to seek out a physician till the pain was intense and the finger joint swelled with signs of traveling infection. She was put on antibiotics but in wanting to give the antibiotics a chance and not go through the painful ordeal of opening up the wound she resisted the doctor's advice and another week went by. By then there was a good chance the infection went into the joint. So in her procrastination to avoid inconvenience she ended up with having her finger sliced open with a temporary drain, a large bulky bandage, another round of antibiotics (she did avoid the necessity of antibiotics through an IV), and at least two weeks off work.
Since she had avoided the doctor visit she hadn't checked into her medical records as to when she had her last tetanus shot which by the way was overdue. Tetanus is not to be fooled around with, it can be fatal. The spores produce a toxin that interferes with nerve function, leading to muscle spasms, pain, seizures, difficulty breathing, and "lockjaw".

Live and learn.