Warning about animal bites after raccoon bites toddler

Warning about animal bites after raccoon bites toddler
This is the time of year pediatricians are reporting more animal bites in children. (Source: KPLC)

SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) - A warning about animal bites and your children after a local toddler was recently bitten by a raccoon, prompting quick action with rabies prophylaxis in the ER.

When that medical chart came in and pediatrician Lyle Stephenson at The Pediatric Center saw it, he immediately began reviewing this bizarre case.

"We recently had a child that was bit by a raccoon in her backyard and had to go to a local hospital," said Dr. Stephenson, "and she received the immune globulin and the rabies vaccines."

That little girl is doing well today, but it is a reminder about the health threats of wild animals and unvaccinated pets.  

Dr. Stephenson says dogs account for 80 percent of treated animal bites.

"Most of the time it is the family dog.  In younger children, younger children tend to get bit in the face because they put their face in dogs' faces," said Dr. Stephenson.  "Older adults and older children tend to get bit on the extremities: the arms, the legs."

Cats follow, but the wound is typically different than a dog's.

"A dog's going to kind of clamp and crush, whereas a cat is just going to kind of puncture you and go away," said Dr. Stephenson.

If the animal is up-to-date on a rabies vaccine, the concern for the person bit is inflammation and infection at the site.

"These animals can have the same organisms growing in their mouths that you and I do and on our skin," said Dr. Stephenson, "so we worry about things like staph and strep, which can cause localized skin infections.  We also worry about a particular organism that grows in their mouth called pasteruella."

Pasteurella can cause an inflammatory infection at the site of the bite.

Dr. Stephenson says if the animal is known to be vaccinated and the bite is minor, you can treat it by washing it, then applying triple antibiotic ointment.  If it is deeper or you do not know the animal's health status, you need to get to a doctor immediately.

"Usually it's just flushing it out," said Dr. Stephenson, "they'll put some antiseptic on it.  In some cases, stitches are required.  Some cases more surgery is required with severe bites or crush injuries, with big dogs especially."

The bottom line: avoid wild animals and unfamiliar pets.  If you have family pets, teach your children safe techniques to pet or play with them.

The most common sign of rabies in an animal is foaming at the mouth.  Treatment in the emergency room for possible exposure includes several rabies vaccines over the course of two weeks and a shot of rabies immune globulin.

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