When should I take my child to the emergency room for a bite?

When an animal, child or insect bites your child it can be frightening. Most bites are minor and can be treated at home, but it's important to know when to seek emergency care.

Dogs, cats and other pets bite children much more commonly than adults. Additionally, young children are at the highest risk of bites from other children. You may want to seek emergency care for your child for the following:
  • A bite to the hand, face or joint. There is a risk of underlying damage and infection.
  • Rabies or tetanus. A bite from a wild or feral (a domestic animal that has gone wild) animal or livestock puts your child at risk of rabies or tetanus. Follow-up shots often are necessary.
  • The transmission of a virus. A bite from another child that breaks the skin can lead to the transmission of viruses. Always have a human bite checked by a pediatrician.
  • A bite or scratch from a cat. Cat bites or scratches can become easily infected, especially on the joint or hand. Antibiotics are usually recommended.
  • A dog bite. Dog bites also can become infected and may require antibiotics if the skin is broken.
  • A snake bite. Unless you know for sure that the snake is not poisonous, seek emergency care. Be sure to take note of the snake's appearance so you can describe it to the emergency staff.

Continue Learning about First Aid For Animal Encounters

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.