There's nothing sweeter than watching your child interact (and inevitably fall in love) with a dog, and most of the time, it's totally harmless. However, accidents happen, and it's always a good time to educate yourself on how common dog bites really are. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control found that at least 42 percent of all dog bites happen to children under the age of 14, and that number has continued to increase with time.
So, as a parent, what can you do? We spoke with Dr. Evan Weiner, director of emergency medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, who explained what measures should be taken if a dog bites your child. The first thing all parents should do is educate yourself and your kids. "Teach your children to be cautious around unfamiliar dogs," he advises. "Remind them to remain motionless and not to pet the dog until the dog's owner is present and provides permission. Even if you have a dog in your household, teach your child to never disturb the dog if it's sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. Young children should never be left alone with dogs, both familiar and unfamiliar." But if a bite does occur, here are the steps you should take:
1. Act Fast
Dr. Weiner explains that you must take action quickly, because "there are many forms of bacteria in a dog's mouth, so bites can easily become infected. If a dog bite breaks the skin, make sure to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water."
2. Wrap It Up
Regardless of whether there's bleeding or not, immediately apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream and wrap up the wound, Dr. Weiner advises.
3. Know When to Go to the Emergency Room
"Any dog bites to the face, ears, head, and neck should be seen in the ER for careful repair and antibiotics. Bites on fingers and hands should also be seen in the ER," he continues. "Small bites elsewhere can typically be washed carefully with close follow-up by your child's primary care physician." However, when in doubt, visit an urgent care or ER facility immediately, especially if the bite is from "an unknown dog or a dog with signs of rabies."
4. Keep Checking
Keep an eye out for any signs of infection around the bite, Dr. Weiner concludes, adding that typical signs will include a fever and redness or swelling around the bite.