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Shark Bite

Shark Bite Treatment continued...

The doctor must first treat life-threatening injuries. With shark attacks, massive tissue loss or bleeding causes most deaths. The doctor will attempt to stop bleeding by applying direct pressure. IV fluids and blood products will be needed for any major wounds.

Some people with shark bites may need to be taken quickly to the operating room to remove dead tissue, control bleeding, and clean the wound thoroughly.

All wounds will need aggressive cleaning with fluids to help prevent infection. The doctor will inspect the wound closely for tooth fragments or debris left in the wound. An X-ray may help detect these foreign bodies. The wound will probably be closed (stitched) loosely because of the risk of infection. A tetanus booster is likely given if the person has not had one within the last 5 years. The doctor may start antibiotics to help prevent infection.

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.

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