5 Steps To Take If Your Child Is Bitten By A Dog

Dogs are generally loyal, loving animals, but canines that have aggressive tendencies or feel scared or threatened may bite, and children are the largest group of dog bite victims. There are 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year, and 30,000 of those bites require reconstructive surgery. If your child is bitten by a dog, follow these steps:

Stop the Bleeding

Dogs have sharp teeth and very strong jaws, so a dog bite can do substantial damage to the skin. The first step to take if your child is bitten by a dog is to use a clean cloth to apply pressure to the wound to slow the bleeding.

Call Animal Control

If your child was bitten by an unattended dog that you don't know, report the incident to animal control. It is important to do this as soon as possible so animal control can impound the dog and keep him from biting anyone else.

Get Prompt Medical Care

The seriousness of a dog bite can be hard to assess if you are not a medical professional, so it is in your child's best interest to go to the emergency room at the closest hospital. An ER doctor will be able to look at the bite and determine the best course of treatment. If the bite is very serious, or if the bite is on your child's face, a reconstructive surgeon, such as Gatti John MD, may be consulted. If you seek medical care promptly, reconstructive surgery is usually quite effective at minimizing scarring.

Be Prepared for Shots

Most children hate getting shots, but in the case of a dog bite, they may be necessary. If your child was bitten by a stray dog, or one that you don't know, he or she may have to undergo a series of rabies shots as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of the fatal disease. Doctors also often recommend a tetanus booster shot.

Carefully Follow Aftercare Instructions

Antibiotics are often prescribed after a dog bite to minimize the chance of infection--make sure that you give them to your child as prescribed, and ensure that they finish the whole course of medication. You will most likely be advised to follow up with your child's pediatrician to make sure that the wound is healing properly. If reconstructive surgery was necessary, your child will likely have a follow up appointment with the reconstructive surgeon to have stitches removed.