When the bite is worse than the bark

(Photo provided)

We all enjoy being out and about as spring gets underway. And with more warm weather comes more children — and more dogs — outside in the same yard, field or just walking down the street.

Believe it or not, more than 4.5 million dog bites happen each year. If you want to take the bite out of a dog’s bark, let me provide a few suggestions:

1. First, teach your child to be careful around pets. They should always ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog and never approach a strange dog they do not know.

2. Remind children never to bother a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping, or eating — and never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

3. If you have a dog in your family, it is also important to make sure your dog is vaccinated against rabies.

4. If a dog appears threatening, teach your child to stay calm and avoid eye contact. They should stay still or back away slowly until the dog leaves, but never turn around and run. And if a dog knocks a child down, they should curl into a ball and keep their hands over their face.

5. If a bite does occur, apply pressure to stop the bleeding and then wash the wound with soap under running water for three to five minutes, ideally using a sink hose or something else with some pressure. The wound should then be covered with sterile gauze or a clean cloth while you call your health care professional for further instructions.

When do we worry about a bite? Well, if a bite wound continues to bleed for more than 10 minutes despite compression; is deep, appears red, hot and swollen; is draining pus or comes from an unknown animal, then please seek medical attention to determine if further treatment such as stitches, antibiotics, or rabies prevention is indicated.

Hopefully, tips like this will cover any pet-ticular issues you have when it comes to knowing more about what to do if you’re worried about your child getting bitten by a dog.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, MD, College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9-FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.uvmhealth.org/medcenterfirstwithkids.


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