April 29, 2009 / 6:16 PM / 10 years ago

Beware of dog, emergency docs warn

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Spring has sprung and many people are out walking their dogs, prompting the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) to remind people about the dangers of dog bites.

A man walks a dog on Venice Blvd. in Los Angeles May 2, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

According to the ACEP, more than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year, many of them children who can’t resist petting the animals.

“Most dogs are friendly, with no intentions to cause harm to anyone,” said ACEP president Dr. Nick Jouriles. “But sometimes they act aggressively toward strangers for a variety of reasons. “Most dog bites are not fatal, but at least one in five requires medical attention, including a trip to the emergency department.”

Several common-sense tactics can help prevent dog bites, according to the ACEP, such as staying clear of unfamiliar dogs or any dogs acting strangely.

Don’t run from a dog, scream, startle them or make loud noises, the ACEP advises, and if approached by a strange, possibly threatening dog, keep very still and avoid direct eye contact with the dog. If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still, and cover your head.

It’s also good common sense, ACEP says, to let sleeping dogs lie; don’t disturb a dog that is snoozing, eating or caring for puppies.

Don’t pet a strange dog without allowing the dog to see and sniff you first. The ACEP encourages parents to teach their kids these common sense tactics.

What do you do if you are bitten? If bleeding, put pressure on the wound and clean the area with running water. If fever or other signs of infection surface, such as swelling, redness, pain, a bad smell or fluid draining from the area, see a doctor immediately.

Call 911 in cases of a severe attack, extensive bleeding or if the bite is near the face. Children or adults may need a tetanus shot after a dog bite.

For dog owners, having your dog spayed or neutered can reduce aggressive tendencies. Infants and young children should never be left alone with a dog, even the family pet, ACEP warns.

More information about dog bites and other medical related topics can be found at the ACEP website — www.emergencycareforyou.org.

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