Most animal bites in children occur from pets that are known to the family, including their own pets. Bites by wild animals are much less common but do occasionally occur. Human bites, especially from other children are similar, but often have a higher chance of infection.
Any bite breaking the skin should first be treated similarly to any other wound:
- Apply pressure until bleeding stops (seeking immediate care if the wound is large or bleeding does not stop)
- Wash the wound gently but thoroughly with soap and water.
Call your pediatrician for all bites that break the skin.
Your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection in certain cases, especially if:
- The bite is large or requires stiches
- The bite is on the face, hands, feet, or genitals
- The bite is near any bone, tendons, or joints
- The bite occurred from another human (including children)
If the bite occurred from a mammal (pet or wild animal) your pediatrician will determine the risk of exposure to rabies and if rabies vaccine or additional treatment is needed.
- Always get contact information (phone and address) if the bite occurs from a pet unknown to the family, as evaluation of the pet may be needed to determine if rabies prophylaxis is needed.
To prevent tetanus after a bite your pediatrician may recommend a tetanus shot or other treatment if your child’s:
- Tetanus vaccines are not up to date
- last tetanus vaccine was >5 years ago
- Tetanus vaccine status is unknown