Animal Bites :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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Animal Bites

An animal scratch or bite can be very frightening. Your child may need extra comfort and attention in the next few days or weeks to get over the experience.

First Aid for Bites*

  • Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and lots of water.
  • Get medical help the same day if possible.  This is very important! If any stitches (sutures) are needed, they must be done within the first 12 hours after a bite (Picture 1).
  • If possible, know the date of your child’s last tetanus shot.

*Please note: Children may be bitten by other children during play or accidentally during sports.  Human bites should receive the same first aid and prompt medical attention as an animal bite.

Report to the Health Department

  • Report the animal bite to the Health Department:
    • Franklin County Health Department: (614) 525-3160
    • Columbus Health Department: (614) 645-6134
    • Other ____________________________________
  • Fill out the Animal Bite Intake Report.  Complete as much information as you can.  Ask your doctor to fax it to (614) 525-8890.

Management of the Animal

Picture 1 - Get medical attention within 12 hours.
Image of medical attention
  • If the animal was tame, try to find its owner.  Find out if the animal has had shots for rabies and the date it was done.  The doctor will need to know this to plan your child’s treatment.
  • When possible, isolate the animal in a fenced area for 10 days and watch for any changes in behavior.  Do not try to cage a vicious or wild animal.  If the animal is threatening, call the police or animal control department.
  • Bats - A child who has been bitten by a bat, or has slept in a room with one, must see a doctor.

Wound Care (Follow Only the Instructions that Are Checked Below):

  • Remove the bandage every day and clean the wound with a solution of ________________. Then put on a clean bandage. (Refer to the Helping Hand, Dressing Change: Infected Wound, HH-II-51.)
  • After the stitches have been in for 24 hours, use ½ strength peroxide to keep the wound free of crusts.  Do this 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Stitches need to be checked or removed in _______ days.  Call your child’s doctor and make an appointment.

Signs of Infection in the Wound

Watch for signs of infection.  Call your doctor or go to the Emergency Department if you notice:

  • Increased redness or swelling around the wound
  • Pain or foul odor
  • Increased tenderness
  • Discharge or drainage from the wound
  • Fever (temperature over 102 degrees F by rectum or 101 degrees F by mouth)
  • Skin is warm or hot to touch at and around wound site.


Until the wound is healed, your child should avoid rough activities that would cause it to open.  In general, swimming and contact sports should be avoided.


Your child was given the following immunizations:

A prescription for (medicine) _______________________________________ was given.  Please tell your child’s doctor he is taking this medicine.  This medicine is for_______________________________________.

How to Avoid Animal Bites

It is important to teach your child how to avoid being bitten by an animal.  If approached by an animal that may attack you:

  • Never scream and run.
  • Stand very still with hands at your sides.  Avoid eye contact with the animal.
  • Once the animal loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
  • If the animal does attack, “feed” him your jacket, book bag, or anything you can put between you and the animal.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and don’t move.  Try not to scream or roll around.
  • Never tease or chase an animal or pull its ears, tail or paws, even if the animal is known to you.
  • Always walk away if an animal is growling or begins to growl when approached. Never run!
  • Never bother an animal while it is eating.
  • Don’t eat or carry food when a strange animal is nearby.
  • Never try to pet or catch a wild animal.
  • Don’t go near stray animals or animals you do not know.

If an animal is an immediate threat to people or other animals, call the Columbus Public Health veterinarian at 614-645-6748 or call 3-1-1 (645-3111).

Ways to Avoid Rabies

Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus. The virus can infect wild animals, pets and people. In the United States, wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are the most likely to carry rabies. The virus is carried in the saliva of an infected animal.  If an infected animal bites a person, the virus can be given to humans. When rabies is carried by a bat, there does not have to be an actual bite for the person to be infected. If a person has been bitten by an infected animal or in contact with a bat, a series of anti-rabies shots is needed to prevent rabies. Without this treatment, rabies is almost always fatal. Here are some ways to avoid rabies:

  • Parents or another adult should call Animal Control if they see animals acting strangely.
  • Do not handle dead animals.  Call 3-1-1 to have a dead animal removed.
  • Have your pets vaccinated and see that they wear their rabies tags. Keep pets away from wildlife and walk dogs on a leash.
  • Your child should tell you if he or she is bitten by an animal or wakes up in a room with a bat.
  • Leave wild animals in the wild.  If you find a sick or injured wild animal, call Animal Control, your local veterinarian or, in the Central Ohio area, the Crisis Hotline for the Ohio Wildlife Center at 614-793-9453.
  • Leave bats and other wild animals alone.

Visit and for more safety information.

Animal Bites (PDF)

Animal Bite Intake Report (Word Doc)

HH-I-57 5/83, Revised 5/11 Copyright 1983-2011, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

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