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14-year-old dies from rabies; how can parents protect their children from dog bites

After a teenager succumbed to rabies after being bitten by a dog, there has been a new concern among parents on how to safeguard their children from dog bites.

The 14-year-old named Sabez from Ghaziabad had been bitten by a dog more than a month ago, but reportedly kept this a secret from his parents out of fear.

According to the World Health Organization, once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. It is present in all continents except Antartica, with over 95% of human deaths in Asia and Africa. Additionally, children between age of 5 and 14 years are the most frequent victims of rabies.

Given the gravity of the situation, we turned to experts to understand how to treat dog bites in children.

According to Dr Neeraj Kumar Tulara, General Medicine & Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, if someone is bitten by a dog, here are the steps one should take:

*Wash the wound: Immediate cleaning of the wound with soap and warm water is essential and should last for at least 5 minutes.

*Apply an antiseptic: The application of an antiseptic solution can minimise wound infection risk.

*Stop bleeding: Bleeding should be stopped by applying gentle pressure to a clean cloth if the wound is bleeding.

*Seek medical attention: Medical attention should be sought regardless of how insignificant the bite seems. An assessment of the wound is typically followed by the doctor’s decision on whether a tetanus shot is required.

*Report the bite: If the dog’s vaccination status is uncertain, report the bite to nearby animal control authorities.

Since rabies is a serious and potentially fatal viral infection, a rabies vaccination is necessary when the animal’s behaviour seems abnormal or rabies can’t be confirmed, regardless of the animal’s status.

In such a scenario, Dr Rajiv Chhabra, Chief, Paediatric, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon suggests getting vaccinated immediately after the exposure. “The rabies vaccine consists of a series of shots that are typically given over a 14-day period. Completing the series is crucial to have effective protection,” he said.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal or a pet animal, Dr Chhabra advises to get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine to prevent the virus from progressing.

Like any vaccine, the rabies vaccine too has mild side effects which include pain or swelling at the injection site.

“Consider consulting your doctor if you think the side effects are bothering you a little too much with your ability to perform routine tasks efficiently,” he said, adding that make sure to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on rabies vaccination and treatment after potential exposure to rabies, as early intervention is vital in preventing this deadly disease.

Regardless of the risk for rabies, Dr Vinit Samdani, Pediatrician, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai said that bite wounds can cause serious injury such as nerve or tendon laceration and infection. “Your doctor will determine the best way to care for your wound and will also consider how to treat the wound for the best possible cosmetic results.”

Additionally, he noted that one should get a tetanus shot if they have not been immunised in ten years, and decisions regarding the use of antibiotics, and primary wound closure should be decided together with the doctor.

How to prevent dog bites

dog bites Encourage petting approaches that are gentle. (Source: Freepik)

Dr Tulara noted that to prevent dog bites in children, one must ensure their safety through regular supervision of interactions between children and dogs, teaching children to respect the dog’s boundaries and personal space, encouraging petting approaches that are gentle, and educating kids about early warning signs of stress or aggression in dogs.

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Moreover, it is crucial that children gain permission from their owners before petting or approaching, avoid dog teasing or taunting, and maintain dog’s privacy by not disturbing them when they are taking their meals, catching sleep or tending to their young.

Apart from this, Dr Samdani suggested that especially if you have pet dogs, then children should be kept in a separate area from the dog. Break your house into zones if you have young children, he said, adding that both child and dog should be well-vaccinated.

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