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What to do if your child is bitten by a dog

Whether you come into contact with loose dogs at the playground or you're visiting your friend that has a very lazy basset hound, it is important to know what to do in case your child is bitten and how to prevent provocation in the first place. In general, children are more likely to be bitten or attacked by a dog than an adult. Of those bitten, one in five requires medical attention.

It is rare that a dog randomly runs up to people and bites them out of the blue. Usually, it is a reaction to encroaching on the dog's territory, acting in a threatening manner, or causing the dog pain.

Your child may think he's giving your neighbor's dachshund an affectionate hug, but in the dog's reality it has just innocently wandered into a wrestling ring and is now in a choke-hold. Since the dog's ability to communicate in complete sentences is rather limited, its instinctual reaction is to growl and bite.

When this happens, it is not your child's fault because he was unaware that he was causing pain and it is not the dog's fault for reacting according to its canine nature. However, the dog's owner or handler should have taken control of the situation long before there was a threat of injury.

Below are steps you can take if your child is bitten by a dog, as well as prevention techniques.

First Aid

The first thing you need to do if your child is bitten is to control the bleeding. Use a clean towel to put pressure on the wound and keep the limb elevated.

Next, apply clean the wound using soap and water to take care of any bacteria.

Once the bleeding has stopped and the wound has been cleaned, apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage the area.

If you don't know the dog that bit your child, the wound is very deep or on your child's face, or if you can't stop the bleeding, immediately seek medical assistance.

Prevention

The first thing you can do to prevent a dog bite, is to never leave your child alone with a dog, including the poodle you've had for the last six years.

When in the presence of dogs, keep your child calm. If a child is running, jumping, or yelling, dogs can get scared and agitated which can cause them to act in a defensive manner.

Teach your child that touching a dog must be done gently and slowly on the pooch's side or back. When petting a dog, your child should always keep his hands away from the dogs head and mouth. Even a playful nip can draw blood.

Also, hugging a dog is never a good idea, for adults or children. Dogs see this as a sign of dominance and do not react well when a person tries to trap them in a bear hug.

If you and your child come across a dog that is sleeping or eating, it is best to keep your distance. Dogs that are asleep can be easily startled and misinterpret a pat as a threat. A dog that is eating may think that your child is there to steal its food and act aggressively to protect its meal.

Always get permission from the owner before petting a dog.

In South Carolina, if you are bitten or attacked by a dog in a public space or in a private space that you entered legally, the person in charge of the dog's care is liable for any damages.

If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, it is important to understand your rights and options in South Carolina.

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