South African Medical Journal

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

J P Dwyer, T S Douglas, A B van As


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.

South African Medical Journal Vol. 97 (8) 2007: pp. 597-600

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