Dog bite injuries in children - a review of data from a South African paediatric trauma unit

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South African Medical Journal

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University of Cape Town

Background and objective. Dog bites are a major cause of preventable traumatic injury in the paediatric population. We aimed to determine the epidemiology of dog bite injuries in a group of South African children with a view to developing potential preventive strategies. Design, setting, subjects. A retrospective review was done of patients presenting with dog bite injuries to the trauma unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town over a 13.5-year period. Results. We identified 1 871 children treated for 2 021 dog bite injuries during the study period. Dog bites accounted for 1.5% of all trauma unit presentations. Male children accounted for 68% of the patients. Children under 6 years of age were more likely to have sustained injuries to the head, face or neck, while children older than 6 years more commonly received injuries to the perineum, buttocks, legs or feet. Younger children were more likely to be attacked at home and older children outside the home. The most frequent injuries were superficial, and the majority of patients were treated with simple medication, dressing or suturing. There were no dog bite-related fatalities. Conclusion. The relationship between the geographical location of dog attacks on children and the age groups attacked suggests that strategies to prevent dog bites should target both parents supervising younger children at home, and older children who encounter dogs outside the home.