Caring for a child’s animal bite or scratch

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s important to make sure children know how to be safe around animals, including the family pet. Experts say most bites come from animals a child knows.

Dr. Kristin Farr, emergency room physician at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, says animal bites and scratches, even minor ones, can sometimes lead to complications.

Dr. Farr says if a bite is from a wild animal, always take the child to the pediatrician. A doctor should also look at a scratch or bite that breaks the skin, no matter what animal it was. Diseases like rabies can spread from animal bites, as well as other infections. Some bites, especially from cats, can become infected by bacteria from the animal’s mouth.

Cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection, can be transmitted by a cat scratch, even if the site doesn’t look infected.

If a child’s injuries are severe, call 911 immediately. If the bite or scratch is only minor, first wash the area with soap and water. Apply pressure with a sterile gauze pad or clean cloth if bleeding. Apply antibiotic ointment. Cover the area with a bandage or sterile gauze. Offer the child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

A child should be brought to the emergency room if the wound is on the face or neck, won’t stop bleeding or appears deep or large. The child should also be brought in if the attacking animal is wild or was behaving strangely or if the bite or scratch becomes red, hot, swollen or increasingly painful.

Always watch children closely around animals. Teach kids not to tease pets, to handle them gently and to stay away from wild or stray animals.

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