Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

My five-year-old niece was here yesterday. She is a ball of energy and before I could warn her, she had stuck her finger in the parrot's cage and got the tip of her finger bitten off! We rushed her to the hospital and they reattached the finger. My question for you is will she lose her finger? I would feel really bad if that happened.

Answer:

It might surprise you to know that over six million American families have a pet bird. And as you have discovered (and probably knew all along), a bird bite can do some serious damage to those they bite -- even causing bone fractures and amputation of fingers! Infection from bird bites is probably the biggest concern. Birds carry many of the common bacteria we are exposed to in our environment such as E. coli, Samonella, and Staphylococcus. But they also can transmit to humans (through bites and scratches) Lactobacillus, Pasturella multocida, and Proteus. Treatment in a hospital setting is your best insurance against complications or problems following a bite severe enough to take the tip of the finger off. The finger was probably irrigated and debrided (cleaned). An antiobiotic is always prescribed with such injuries. And lab tests will be done to follow-up, making sure no systemic infection develops. Long-term studies reporting the results of treatment for bird bites are lacking in the medical literature. Early treatment in a healthy child usually results in good to excellent results. But domestic bird bites can be very serious and pose a real health threat. The best advice is for your niece to follow all of the physician's recommendations and to go to the follow-up appointments. Preventing infection and saving the finger are the priorities. Teaching children not to put their fingers into a bird cage is also a good idea. You might think that this experience would be enough to put an end to this kind of behavior (child) and response (bird). But it doesn't always work out that way. Don't take chances. If necessary, cover the bird's cage whenever you have visitors (adults and children). Carissa L. Meyer, MD, and Joshua M. Abzug, MD. Domestic Bird Bites. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. September 2012. Vol. 37A. No. 9. Pp. 1925-1928.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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