Case study ( 4819 views as of September 24, 2023 )
Gabby is a 27-year-old legal secretary who's cat came home smelling of rotten fish. She attempted to bathe the cat, and it "freaked out on her", scratching Gabby's cheek, forearms, and biting her on the base of her left (dominant) thumb. She cleaned up the wounds as carefully as she could, but 12 hours later, the base of her thumb has puffed up to double the normal size, is very painful, and she is noticing some pink lines running up her left forearm towards her elbow.
Cat bites, unlike dog bites, get infected more often than not (~80% of the time). Furthermore, cat scratches behave a lot like cat bites, as cats groom themselves with their tongues, so the same bacteria that infect bites may infect scratches.
Gabby needs to see her primary care provider, and would likely benefit from a trip to the emergency department. Even if she had been seen earlier in the day, before her thumb became swollen, her primary care provider would likely have her stay on antibiotics due to the high probability of infection. At this point, she likely has a type of infection called cellulitis, and the red streaks on her arm are called ascending lymphangitis. This type of infection will often be treated not just with pills, but sometimes with a few days of intravenous antibiotics. Untreated cellulitis can be very serious, and even life-threatening.Author: Dr. Adam Lund