Animal bites and scratches that break the skin can sometimes cause infection. Some bites need to be closed with stitches while others heal on their own.
Rarely, animal bites (particularly from wild animals) can lead to rabies, a life-threatening disease. Bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes transmit most cases of rabies.
What to Do
- Wash the bite area with soap and water; apply pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth if the bite is bleeding.
- If the bleeding has stopped, apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the area with a bandage or sterile gauze.
- Offer your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
Seek Medical Care
- the bite was from:
- a wild or stray animal
- a pet that isn't up-to-date on rabies shots
- an animal that is acting strangely
- the bite has broken the skin
- the bite is on the face, head, neck, hand, foot, or near a joint
- a bite or scratch becomes red, hot, swollen, or increasingly painful
- your child is behind on shots or has not had a tetanus shot within 5 years
When seeking treatment, have the following information on hand:
- the kind of animal that bit your child
- the date of the animal's last rabies vaccination, if known
- any recent unusual behavior by the animal
- the animal's location, if known
- if the animal was a stray or wild, or was captured by a local animal control service
- your child's immunization (shots) record
- a list of any medicines your child is allergic to
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014
|National SAFE KIDS Campaign The National SAFE KIDS Campaign offers information about car seats, crib safety, fact sheets, and links to other health- and safety-oriented sites.|
|National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) The website of NCIPC contains a variety of injury prevention information.|
|Children's Safety Network Made up of several resource centers funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Safety Network works to reduce injuries and prevent violence for children and adolescents.|
|The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) The HSUS educates the public about the humane treatment of all animals, and how to find and care for different kinds of pets.|
|Skin Infections Instruction Sheet Skin abscesses or boils (a collection of pus in the skin) and cellulitis (bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and tissues beneath) are typical childhood skin infections. The usual bacterial suspects in skin infections are strep or staph, both requiring medical treatment.|
|Cat Scratch Disease Cat scratch disease is an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes after an animal scratch. Learn about signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment, and more.|
|Preventing Dog Bites Teaching kids a few basic dog manners will help them enjoy safe encounters with Fido.|
|Infections That Pets Carry Kids can benefit from the companionship, affection, and relationships they share with pets. But it's important to know how to protect your family from infections carried by pets and other animals.|
|First Aid & Safety Center Boo-boos, bug bites, and broken bones - oh my! Here's your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about how to keep kids safe.|
|Dealing With Cuts Find out how to handle minor cuts at home - and when to seek professional treatment.|
|Rabies Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system that is caused by a virus. Rabies is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.|
|Bites and Scratches Animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can become infected and spread bacteria to other parts of the body, regardless of whether the animal is a family pet or a wild animal.|
|First Aid: Cuts Most cuts can be safely treated at home. But deeper cuts - or any wounds that won't stop bleeding - need emergency medical treatment.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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