Animal Bites

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

First Aid for Bites

  • Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and rinse with lots of water.Animal Bite
  • Get medical help the same day if possible. This is very important! Stitches (sutures) must be done within 12 hours after a bite (Picture 1).
  • Check the date of your child's last tetanus shot. 

*Note: Children may be bitten by other children. Human bites need the same first aid and fast medical help as animal bites.

Report to the Health Department

If someone is bitten by an animal here is what you need to do:

  1. Within 24 hours of the animal bite, report it to the Health Department in the city or county where the bite occurred. The report can be made by the person who was bitten, a child’s parent or guardian, a health care provider, or veterinarian who knows about the bite.
    • In Franklin County call: (614) 525-3160
    • In Columbus call: (614) 645-7288
  2. Fill out the Animal Bite Intake Report below. Ask your child’s doctor or health care provider to fax it to the Health Department in the city or county where the bite occurred.

Animal Management

  • If the animal was tame, try to find its owner. Ask if the animal had its rabies shots and the date it was done. The doctor needs to know this to plan your child’s treatment.
  • Keep the animal away from others in a fenced area for 10 days and watch for any changes in behavior. Don't try to cage an angry or wild animal. If the animal is threatening, call the police or animal control.
  • Bats - If your child is bitten by a bat, or has slept in a room with one, they must see a doctor or health care provider.

Wound Care

Remove the bandage each day and clean the wound with soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic cream and put on a clean bandage.

Signs of Infection

Watch for signs of infection.  Call your child's doctor or health care provider or go to the closest Emergency Department if they have:

  • A fever over 102° Fahrenheit (F) or 38.8° Celsius (C) by bottom (rectum) or 101°F (38.3°C) by mouth (orally).
  • Signs of infection around the wound:
    • Pain or bad smell
    • Site is more tender
    • Discharge or drainage
    • Site is red or swollen


Your child must avoid rough activities like swimming and contact sports until the wound heals. These could cause the wound to open back up.


Your child will be given certain shots (immunizations) or be prescribed a medicine. If they are prescribed a medicine, tell any of their other health care providers they are taking it and why.

How to Avoid Animal Bites 

  • Don't scream or run near an animal.
  • Avoid eye contact with the animal.
  • Don't have food out when a strange animal is nearby.
  • Stand very still with your hands at your sides.
  • Don't pet or catch a wild animal.
  • Never both an animal while it's eating.
  • Never tease or chase an animal or pull its ears, tail, or paws.
  • Once the animal loses interest, slowly back away until you no longer see it.
  • Walk away if an animal is growling or growls when you get near it. Don't run.
  • If attacked, give the animal your jacket, book bag, or anything you can put between you and it.
  • If you fall down, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and don't move. Try not to scream and roll around.

If an animal is an immediate threat to people or other animals, call the local health department for help.

Visit and for more safety information.

Animal Bites (PDF), Arabic (PDF), Nepali (PDF), Somali (PDF), Spanish (PDF)

Animal Bite Intake Report (Word Doc) 

HH-I-57 | ©5/1983, revised 8/22 | Nationwide Children’s Hospital