Rabies is a terrifying disease. Once a rabid dog bites a human being, the infection will make its way to the person’s brain. Immediate treatment is crucial. Once the disease progress, it is almost always fatal — there is no cure and nothing much else a doctor can do.
To prevent dog bites from happening in the first place, we need to know what to do in the face of an aggressive dog, and that includes our kids. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Doggone Safe, an organization that advocates dog bite prevention, recommends parents to teach their kids the “Be a Tree” technique.
“If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away,” said ASPCA. Stress that your child should never try to outrun a dog.
Here’s a kid-friendly way to relay this to small children:
Stop when an unfamiliar dog comes near you.
Fold your “branches” (hands) in front of you.
Watch your “roots” grow (or to look at your feet).
Count your breaths in your head until help arrives or the dog walks away.
If the dog knocks your child down on the ground, your child should curl up into a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach and his fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ear, said the ASPCA. If the dog attacks, your child should give whatever he has with him to the dog — a bag or jacket, for example, or anything else that the dog can grab.
To help your child remember, practice at home with a stuffed toy or your family pet.
It’s equally important for your child to know how to behave around a dog. Your child should know not to approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies.
Your child should never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially a stray. If the dog is on a leash with a guardian, permission must always be asked first. We should pet an unfamiliar dog on the shoulders or chest, not on the top of the head. Remember, any dog can bite when provoked.
Filipino children below 15 years old compose a third of deaths due to rabies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Sila yung malikot, sila yung parating nasa labas ng bahay, sila yung may constant exposure,” says Department of Health (DOH) assistant secretary Dr. Eric Tayag.
The Philippines is one of the top 10 countries with a rabies public health problem, said WHO. Every day, more than 1,100 Filipino seek emergency medical treatment for animal bites, reported Business Mirror. In 2015, there was 400,000 reported cases of rabies and, on average, rabies causes 400 deaths in the country per year.