First aid: Animal bites

What are they?

While animal bites can occur from any furry creature in nature, most bites actually come from an animal the child knows. The type of injury the bite causes depends upon the animal and the area of the body bitten.

What are the symptoms?

Pain and bleeding are obvious symptoms that arise from animal bites. However, because of the powerful jaws and sharp, thin teeth of some animals, the extent of damage can sometimes be much worse than the puncture and bleeding of the skin.

What can/should be done at home

  • Apply pressure to the bleeding for about five minutes or until it stops.
  • Gently wash the bite wound with soap and water.
  • If possible, safely capture the animal.
  • The animal should not be killed. If there is a risk that the animal may be carrying rabies, it will need to be observed and examined at a later date (usually 10 days after the bite.)

When to get immediate attention

  • All bites, regardless of how minor, ought to be reported to your pediatrician. This way your child's records can be reviewed to make sure the tetanus immunization is up-to-date and a decision can be made whether medications to help guard against rabies are needed.
  • If there is excessive redness or red streaking that develops as it is healing
  • If there is pus present coming from the wound
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