How Bite Resistant Clothing Can Help Protect Mental Health Care Professionals

Professionals working within mental health care facilities and dealing with individuals with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour or special needs, will know that bites from humans are relatively common in their work environments.

If you are one of these professionals, then you will also know that bite related injuries can become infected.

Most of these human bites occur on the fingers or hands, and may be contaminated with pathogens, even if there are no clinical signs of infection. However, the transmission of viruses (e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV) following human bites is much less common.

The Department of Emergency Medicine at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough published a study in 2008. This study illustrates the fact that a retrospective 4-year review of 3136 case notes was conducted, identifying 421 human bites. This amounts to one every 3 days!

The management of these wounds was found to be poor. 17% of patients did not receive any antibiotic cover; 21% of patients either did not have tetanus prophylaxis administered when required or had a tetanus booster when they were already covered; 34% of patients either did not receive a hepatitis B booster when one was required or received one when they were already covered.

Should a bite incident occur within your organisation please immediately assess if the bite has broken the skin, and put on record who was bitten, by whom, when and where.

Please note that if the bite is particularly severe, the injured person might be in need of urgent first aid treatment, such as control of bleeding. Medical advice should be sought for all human bites which break the skin. Full clinical assessment should be carried out to investigate any potential infection, foreign bodies, damage to blood vessels, nerves, tendons, joints or bones.

If the bite has broken the skin you need to encourage the wound to bleed, clean the wound carefully with running water and cover the wound with a waterproof dressing. Then seek medical attention and ensure a proper clinical assessment.

Bite resistant clothing can make a difference…

All activities within mental health care facilities are of course undergoing specific risk assessments in order to reduce the risk of workplace related bite attacks and bite injuries. So, there is only that much we can do in order to prevent injuries and reduce the risk of bite injures using better procedures, systems or policies. Can bite resistant clothing help?

The use of bite resistant clothing has now become a very effective approach to improve the personal safety of mental health care professionals, reducing the risk of infections.

Especially bite resistant sleeves have recently been issued to a number of mental health care professionals. Our normal instinctive response when faced by a potential hostile or attacking individual is to lift our arms and hands in order to protect our head and facial area. This subsequently exposes our forearm and hands to a much higher risk of injuries. In fact the majority of injuries found on police or security professionals can be found on their forearms or hands. These injuries are classed as defensive injuries. Bite resistant sleeves will dramatically reduce the risk of bite injuries on arms and hands.

All bite resistant garments can comfortably be worn under any existing item of clothing or uniform. However, it is worth pointing out that bite resistant clothing reduces the risk of human teeth penetrating the other person’s skin very effectively, but will not stop the potentially painful effect due to the pressure and force of the human jaw. So the risk of infection will be eliminated, but the risk of bruising remains.

Only a very few specialist manufacturers of protective clothing are capable of creating bite resistant clothing offering an even higher bite protection level, which can be achieved by adding either very thin and flexible layers of leather, rubber, polyethylene (plastic) or other advanced technical materials. This type of bite resistant clothing would substantially reduce the pain created by the crushing force and subsequent bruising.

Some mental health care professionals might prefer such high level of bite protection, as it can offer great protection for very specific areas, such as the female breasts, which have often been subject to very violent grabs or nips.

If you have any questions in reference to bit resistant clothing please do not hesitate and contact the author.