Rabies is often thought of as a bygone health threat. Yet, in 2017 there were 77 rabid animals identified just in Pima County. Earlier this year a suspected, rabid gray fox bit a woman in Vail near Rancho del Lago.

Given their innate curiosity, children are more likely to have encounters with wild animals. We connected with Tim Bohan, a nurse practitioner in the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department for a few words of advice for parents regarding rabies.

What can I do to lower the risk of my child being exposed?

  1. Teach your child to never handle wild or unfamiliar domestic animals, even if they seem friendly.
  2. Vaccinate your dogs, cats and ferrets against rabies – and keep them up to date.
  3. Bat-proof your home and have those unwelcome lodgers evicted if they’ve already taken residence. Contact the Pima Animal Care Center for more information about bat-proofing.

What should I do if my child has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal?

  1. First, thoroughly flush the wound with water and wash it with soap and water.
  2. Call the Pima Animal Care Center for help. Never attempt to capture a possibly rabid animal.
  3. Call your pediatrician. Any bite by a wild animal should be considered a risk for rabies. If bit buy a domestic cat or dog that has been immunized, still contact your pediatrician because the child will need to be monitored for symptoms.

What will the pediatrician do?

If there is reason to believe the child was bitten by a rabid animal, the child must immediately receive immunization injections around the bite.

Even if rabies is not suspected, the pediatrician often prescribes oral antibiotics to protect against infection from the bacteria in animal saliva.

Can we just wait and see?

No. Seek medical attention immediately. Treating at the time of the bite is critical because once the rabies infection develops there is no sure treatment.

Tim Bohan, Nurse Practitioner at the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department

This information is meant as a guide, but should not be used in place of medical advice from your health care provider.


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