If your household is also the home of a few canine companions, talk to your child’s pediatrician if a rabies vaccination is something the kids should get, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) recommends.
“Families with pet dogs should be given the rabies vaccine even before they are bitten,” the PPS states in a rabies fact sheet published on their website. “This is called pre-exposure prophylaxis and is especially recommended for children who may be unaware of the dangers of an animal bite.”
Always remember, rabies is 100 percent fatal in those who get infected (the infection has made its way to the brain). Once a family member develops the disease, there is nothing a doctor will be able to do.
PPS adds, “The Rabies Act of 2007 mandates rabies immunization for children aged 5-14 years living in highly endemic areas. It consists of three doses given on days 0, 7 and 21 or 28.” The pediatric group also reminds pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated against rabies every year.
Children are more likely to get bitten by a dog. “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. In fact, Filipino children below 15 years old compose a third of deaths due to rabies in the Philippines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
If your child is bitten by an animal Quick action is crucial: wash the bitten area, disinfect with an antiseptic, and immediately see a doctor to undergo post-exposure rabies vaccination. There should be no hesitation nor should you wait and wonder whether or not the bite will lead to rabies. A small or large dog with rabies can infect your child.
Post-exposure rabies vaccination shots are available in public and private Animal Bite Treatment Centers. There are 486 in the Philippines, and 32 are located in Metro Manila. (Click here to see the nearest one to your home). “Multiple doses are needed to induce antibody development as early as possible in a patient who has been bitten,” says the PPS.
Rabies via cat scratches and rat bites Yes, your child can get rabies from a cat scratch. “Bites and scratches by an animal’s paw can transmit rabies,” says PPS. “The same is true for licks on open wounds and on mucous membranes such as the eyes, mouth, and genitals. Exposures on the head, face, and neck are especially dangerous.”
Rats, mice, hamsters and other rodents “are not significant carriers of rabies,” says PPS. “Rabies vaccination is not routinely given for rat bites.” However, your child should still be taken to the emergency room when bitten or scratched by a rodent to receive a tetanus shot. A doctor will also be able to advise you on rabies.
Teaching your child how to behave around dogs Aside from prevention through vaccination, it’s equally important for your child to know how to act around a dog, especially one that he doesn't know.
How to interact with all dogs
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. Touch an unfamiliar dog on the shoulders or chest, not on the top of the head. Any dog can bite when provoked.
What to do when approached by an aggressive dog
If an aggressive dog comes near your 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,” advises the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
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.