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Shark Bite

Next Steps

Follow-up

Keep a close eye on the bite wounds for evidence of infection. Seawater contains many bacteria not often encountered on land. If these cause infection, treatment requires appropriate antibiotics.

Follow up with a doctor if the wound appears to be worsening, as evidenced by increasing pain, swelling, or discharge (pus or reddish-brown fluid).

Follow up if a fever develops, red streaking originates from the wound, or blister formation begins near the wound.

Prevention

 

  • Avoid the shark's favored hunting grounds. Sharks frequent drop-offs from shallow to deep water, troughs between submerged sand bars, and deep channels.
  • Avoid the water if bleeding. Menstrual blood has not been shown to increase the risk of shark attack, but a shark in the vicinity can likely sense the blood.
  • Avoid wearing or carrying shiny objects, such as jewelry or brightly contrasting colors.
  • Spear fishing, fishing, and chumming the water will likely attract sharks.
  • Erratic swimming or splashing at the surface may cause a shark to mistake a person for its natural prey.
  • Beware especially of any shark greater than 2 meters, or about 6 feet, in length.
  • Agitated swimming movements by a shark, particularly if accompanied by a raised snout, lowered pectoral fins, and hump-backed posture, may indicate aggressiveness.
  • Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk, and nighttime hours when many sharks actively feed.
  • Swim in a group, because sharks are more likely to attack if a person is isolated and alone.

Outlook

Injuries from shark bites can be minor or life threatening. Massive tissue loss and large amounts of bleeding most often carry a worse prognosis. Wound infections are also a serious concern. Having survived the attack long enough to reach medical care, however, makes it very likely that continued survival and recovery are possible.

Multimedia

Media file 1: Classic shark bites are crescent-shaped. Parallel cuts caused by the shark raking its teeth on the victim are also common. Image courtesy of Fazal Hussain, MD.

Shark Bite Photo

Media type: Photo

Media file 2: Image Courtesy of John Winfield, MD.

Shark Bite Photo

Media type: Photo
 

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 22, 2015
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