Of Love Bites And Tetanus Shots

Katie Young
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Wednesday - July 07, 2005
| Del.icio.us

Love bites. Literally. And it bleeds, too. Especially when your boyfriend gnaws on your forehead.

The story is this: On a Wednesday morn, not more than two weeks ago, the peaceful silence of a neighborhood was shattered by the screech of a woman in great pain.

Her morning had started normally enough. The woman awoke, ate breakfast and got ready for work. Then it happened.

A playful wrestling match involving the woman, her boyfriend and their dog turned bloody when the couple’s heads collided and the laughing boyfriend’s teeth punctured the woman’s soft, pristine flesh.

The two fell backward — he clenching his jarred front teeth, she clutching her head.

“Are you OK? Are you OK?!” the boyfriend asked frantically.

His urgency scared the woman.

She nodded, thinking they had just bumped heads, but then she took her hand away from her forehead and saw it was covered in blood.

“Acccckkkkk!” she screamed.

“Oh nooooo!”

“Lie back, lie back,” the boyfriend advised, rushing to the kitchen to get a pack of ice.

While he was away, the woman ventured to the bathroom to check out the wound in the mirror. A gash, about an inch long and a tooth-length deep, greeted her. That’s when she really started to freak out.

“You made a huge slice in my head!” she screamed in the direction of the boyfriend.

“I know, lie down!” he yelled. The sight of the blood and the hole in her head was too much to take. The woman began to feel faint.

“We’re going to the emergency room,” the boyfriend said.

“Not again,” cried the woman. “I was just there!”

That’s right. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Sebastian is the rabid beast who toothed my head. And I was the unwilling recipient of a human bite that had me making a second trip to Straub ER in less than a month. (The first was my dehydration fiasco in May.)

We arrived at the ER with me still holding the ice pack to my forehead. The nurse asked what happened and when I explained, she started laughing, turned to Sebastian and asked, “What? You were hungry? Didn’t have breakfast yet?”

As I waited for the doctor, Sebastian joked that he was just trying to “keep me around” by leaving a permanent mark of his love on my head for all to see.

“So you were marking your territory then?” I snipped. “Humph. Why didn’t you just pee in a little circle around me?”

“Too messy,” Sebastian laughed. “Just think of this as a love bite.”

Well, my “love bite” required four stitches, a tetanus shot and some antibiotic pills (the size of which, I determined, could choke a horse).

“Human bites are very, very dirty, more than dog bites,” the ER doctor warned. “They can become infected easily so you have to watch it and make sure to take all of the antibiotic. Also, don’t go in the sun for three to six months or it will scar.”

According to an Internet health site, bites (animal and human) are responsible for about 1 percent of visits to emergency rooms and are most common during the summer months.

In a study about human bites, Dr. Don R. Revis Jr. at the University of Florida College of Medicine found that human bites are the third most common bite wounds, after dog and cat bites. Of those reported, approximately 60 percent occur in the upper extremity. About 10 to 15 percent of human bite wounds develop an infection.

“The bacterial inoculum of a human bite is rich in oral flora, as saliva contains as many as 100 million organisms per milliliter, with as many as 190 different species,” wrote Revis.

These include streptococci, staphylococci, haemophilus and other organisms.

“We live with a lot of bacteria that feed off of food particles and other stuff in our mouths,” says Straub doctor of internal medicine Kathleen Kozak. “Our mouths have more bacteria than the street.”

Ewwww. Who knew the human mouth was so filthy? A dog’s saliva is cleaner.

This makes me recall a story my father told me about a high school biology experiment he and a few classmates conducted where they attempted to grow various bacteria on a petrie dish. As a joke, they had the prettiest girl in class kiss a petrie plate to see what might develop.

“I was dismayed at what grew on that plate,” my dad recalls. “It was all fuzzy and white. After that, we all swore off kissing … temporarily, of course.”

Makes you think twice about locking lips with your significant other, doesn’t it? It sounds like it might be more sanitary to smooch your pooch instead.

Kozak does note, however, that regular teeth brushing, flossing and gargling with mouthwash can help minimize the bacteria party in your mouth. You’ll never get rid of it all, she warns, and you wouldn’t want to anyway because we also have good bacteria that help with digestion and other bodily tasks.

But the fact remains that human bites are the dirtiest types of wounds doctors see, says Kozak. Because bites cause puncturing and tearing of skin rather than clean-edged cuts, they must be carefully cleansed to avoid infection. This is something often overlooked by bite-ees. If you’re bitten, wash it with soapy water and then apply peroxide. If the cut looks deep, go to the emergency room; if not, you can usually wait a day or two to see a physician.

While “biters” are typically children who end up playing or fighting too roughly, never assume that you are safe from playful adults — an adult like my Sebastian, who, I can only assume, took one look at my exquisite forehead and couldn’t resist taking a little nibble.

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