This is the beginning of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and having treated a number of these patients I know all too well how devastating these injuries can be. That’s why the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is teaming up with the United States Postal Service (USPS), and groups of pediatricians and veterinarians to raise the awareness of, and help prevent dog bites. Did you know that half of all children are bitten by a dog by the time they are high school seniors? And how many reconstructive procedures after dog bites do you think were done last year? Would you believe 30,000? You should because this number is correct, and it’s up 8% from the proceeding year.
Many of these patients are children, and many require multiple operations. Even more upsetting is that many of the youngest victims suffer bites to the face, and these can truly be devastating for the entire family. So this is no small issue. (No issue is small if it affects our children, no matter what the numbers are.)
The U.S. Postal Service in obviously interested in this because many mail handlers are victims of dog bites: 2,863 last year alone. But, with acknowledgment to them, let me paraphrase their recommendations on how to avoid dog bites. And remember, even the gentlest of dogs can bite if they are hurt, or feel threatened, or if they are protecting food or a toy. Here are the USPS’ tips:
- Don’t run past a dog; it’s their instinct to chase and catch prey.
- If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact, and remain still until the dog leaves. Then back away slowly.
- Don’t approach a strange dog, especially if they are tethered or confined
- If you choose to pet a dog, always let the dog see and sniff you first. (And don’t reach over the dog’s head.)
- If you think a dog is going to attack you, place something between you and the dog, such as a bike or a backpack.
Since many of the victims of dog bites are children — and young children at that, we need to make sure that we teach these tips to our children. A few simple steps can save us all a lot of grief. None of us want to end up in the Emergency Department.
Here’s to being safe and healthy!