8 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

Happy little girl with her mastiff dog on a meadow in summer dayThe first blog in this series was 6 Things to Consider when Choosing a Pet. Then came the various Ways Pets Can Make Your Kids Sick, and what to do about them. Last week was How to Raise a Puppy You Will Like as a Dog.

Today’s blog is the last of the series: How to Prevent Bites. Whether or not you have a dog, it is a good idea to teach your kids how to behave around them in order to prevent bites.

Stats:

There are about 800,000 dog bites requiring medical attention annually in the United States; about ten per year are fatal. Of the fatal attacks, 92 percent are by male dogs, 94 percent of which are not neutered. One in four is chained up. The particular breeds that bite vary with where you live and what breeds are popular at the time. In many areas, bites from pit bulls predominate. In Denver, where pit bulls are banned, the majority of bites are from German shepherds. In Canada, bites are more likely to be from sled dogs and Huskies.

Restricting specific breeds doesn’t work because the people are the problem, not the dogs. Unfortunately, there will always be people who want aggressive, vicious dogs. Many states have laws that hold the dog owner responsible for the dog’s actions. These are more effective, but they are not on the books everywhere and are difficult to enforce.

The typical dog bite victim is a boy, aged five to nine. Dog bites are 370 times more likely when there is no adult supervision; 88 percent of dog bite deaths of children less than two years of age are children who were not supervised. Half of these are attacks by the family dog.

Never leave a baby or a young child alone with a dog.

Kids don’t naturally speak dog; we need to teach them!

  • Rule number one is that they never approach a strange dog, particularly one that is chained up. Chaining dogs stresses them and makes them feel vulnerable. When your child approaches them, they are invading the dog’s territory, which they feel they are unable to adequately protect while they are chained.
  • The same problem occurs when small hands are stuck through fences – another don’t.
  • Teach your kids to stay away from dogs that are eating, protecting toys, or nursing puppies – dogs are protective of what is theirs. Even the sweetest bitch will snap at a strange human who approaches her puppies.
  • Never disturb a strange dog while it is sleeping.
  • If a dog is safely restrained and with its human, kids should ask permission before they pet it. They should approach calmly and hold out their hand in a closed fist. If the dog sniffs it and wags its tail, they can scratch it under the chin—not on top of its head. They should not curl their body over the dog; if they stay in front of the dog where it can see all of them it will feel less threatened.
  • If they squat down in front of a dog they are saying, “Come play with me.”
  • If they run from the dog, they are saying, “Chase me!”
  • Teach your kids to stand tall with their shoulders down and chins up. They should speak calmly and quietly, and move slowly. Dogs have been around humans for a very long time and are very good at reading us, and to them this stance means “alpha.” If someone else is alpha then the dog can relax.

As always, dogs are great for teaching life lessons. Kids who stand tall, respect other living creatures, and know how to be calm and take charge do well in real life.

 

Summertime Rashes

little cute girl near the pool with a circle for swimmingWhen the days warm up, pediatric offices see a lot of summer skin problems. Kids aren’t often ill during the summer, but they do get sunburns, bites, jellyfish stings, and rashes.

Sunburn

No one thinks about sunscreen on that first glorious sunshiny day, so sunburns are usually our first evidence that summer is here. Remember to use sunscreen, of course, and don’t forget to reapply it every hour.

If your child does burn, give ibuprofen immediately – it helps with the inflammation and can actually reduce the depth of injury. Use aloe generously: it lessens the pain, moisturizes the skin, and helps heal the damage. If the burn is bad, call your doctor. Prescription steroids and burn creams will help.

Bug Bites

Bug bites are also very popular in the summer, from mosquitos, fire ants, yellow flies, and fleas. Insects inject toxins into children’s skin when they bite; how much a particular child reacts depends on how sensitive he or she is.

Cover up little arms and legs when you can, especially if you are going to be outdoors around twilight. There are excellent clothing treatments available that will keep bugs away and last through several washings, protecting your child indirectly.

If your child is older than 2 months, use insect repellant with DEET on exposed skin, even though it’s nasty. It works and it’s a whole lot better than getting insect borne encephalitis. 10% DEET lasts about 2 hours; 30% lasts about 5 hours. Don’t use anything stronger than 30% on a child. Don’t reapply in the same day, and do wash it off when you go back inside.

Creams with pramoxine or calamine will help with itchiness. Cortisone creams help itch and also swelling and redness, but can only be used a couple of times a day. If there are lots of bites, an antihistamine by mouth will also help with swelling and itch.

Never use antihistamine creams (benadryl is the most common), because children can react to the topical antihistamine and actually get worse instead of better.

Bee stings

Bee and wasp stings are treated much the same way, after making sure to remove the stinger and apply a cool compress (and yes, Grandma’s idea about the wet mud does help).

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac

If your child is a forest dweller, he or she will at some point get poison ivy, oak or sumac. These plants produce a poison called urushiol in their sap and leaves, causing redness, itch and blistering.

The severity of this reaction also varies depending on your munchkin’s sensitivity. My brother’s eyes would swell shut if someone burnt it a block away; I could pull it up and throw it away with no reaction.

Wash both the child and his or her clothes as soon as possible. No lounging on the furniture! The toxin can stay on surfaces for months. Once the toxin is either absorbed into the skin or washed off, the rash is no longer contagious. Blister fluid does not contain urushiol.

The rash will develop first where the most toxin was deposited, in streaks and patches. It can spread for a week or so to the areas where less toxin landed, then take another two weeks to clear.

If the rash is mild, you can treat it at home with cool compresses, baking soda or oatmeal baths, the same creams you used for those pesky bug bites, and that antihistamine by mouth. See? Grandma was right again.

If the rash is not mild, or your child has it on their face, around their eyes, or on their genitals (and how did that plant get there?) call your doc. We can put them on steroids, which help enormously.

Jellyfish stings

If you harbor a small mermaid or man in your home, she or he may get stung by a jellyfish. There are some extremely dangerous jellyfish, so if your child has any trouble breathing, is weak or nauseated, has pain away from the sting, or has sweating, cramping, or diarrhea, call your doctor immediately.

If it is a simple sting, first remove the barbs by scraping it with a towel or a credit card. Don’t rub. Put suntan oil or salt water and hot sand on the sting; heat will deactivate the poison.

Do NOT wash the sting with fresh water – it will make the nematocysts (poison sacks) explode and release more poison into the skin. Your child will scream and not love you anymore. Put only fluids with lots of particles in them on the sting: sting-away, vinegar or steak sauce, for example. Ibuprofen will also help the pain and inflammation.

Allergic rashes

Last, we see allergic reactions to everything from sunscreen to henna tattoos to jewelry to pool chemicals from fun in the sun. Kids with sensitive skin or eczema will rash out in the summer from the heat, humidity and sweat.

By now you can probably sense a common theme (or you could just ask Grandma): give your itchy red bumpy child a cool bath with mild soap. Moisturize and apply topical steroids or give antihistamines by mouth.

If any of this doesn’t work, call me! It gets lonely in a pediatric office during the summer when all the kids are healthy.

DomesticatedMomster
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