10 Jul Alarming Increase in Pediatric Dog Bites Since COVID-19 Stay at Home Orders
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Cinnamon A. Dixon, DO, MPH
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Children’s Hospital Colorado
Senior Investigator | Center for Global Health
Colorado School of Public Health
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this commentary?
Response: Dog bites are a long-standing public health problem. Each year there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites across the Unites States (US),1 and global estimates suggest tens of millions of these injuries worldwide.2 Children are the most vulnerable population with nearly 1 million annual dog bites in the US and more severe injury outcomes.1
National organizations espouse consistent strategies on how to prevent dog bites to children, however studies reveal that most children have never received dog bite prevention education.3,4 Furthermore, children lack critical knowledge of how to prevent dog bites in high-risk “resource guarding” situations (such as when a dog is eating or chewing on toys).4
During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of US households are experiencing restrictions in activities. Children now spend more time in the home environment and presumably have increased exposure to their pet dogs. Parents and caregivers likely experience greater stress with more potential for competing interests and resultant decreased supervision of their children and dogs. Finally, pet dogs may be affected by the increased tension of their environment and be more likely to mirror the emotions of their human caregivers.
We hypothesized that these combined elements compound the risk of dog bites to children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings at your institution?
Response: This evaluation of dog bite injuries presenting to our pediatric emergency department revealed an alarming increase in dog bite rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings showed that there was a near 3-fold increase pediatric dog bite incidence after our statewide “Stay-at-Home” order was instituted and high rates have continued even after these regulations were relaxed. Moreover, despite typical increases in dog bite rates during the summertime, our institution is experiencing more than double the dog bite incidence now as compared to last summer.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Children and pet dogs often have special bonds and there are proven benefits of children living in a home with a dog. However, risk of a dog bite is present any time a child is around a dog. During the COVID pandemic, when families have increased at-home time resulting in more child-dog interactions, parents and caregivers must remember to always supervise their infants and children around their dogs. Medical providers, injury prevention experts and public health officials must continue to remind parents, children, and dog owners that any dog can bite and endorse consistent, frequent strategies to prevent dog bites.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Given there are millions of children and pet dogs in the US, all experiencing some variation of shelter-in-place restriction, we hypothesize that our finding of increased dog bites to children during the COVID-19 pandemic is a widespread problem. Thus, it is imperative that future research tracks dog bite rates and identifies strategies and interventions to reduce these preventable injuries, especially during this time.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Resources for dog bite prevention can be found at:
- Gilchrist J, Sacks JJ, White D, Kresnow MJ. Dog bites: still a problem? Inj Prev. 2008; 14:296–301.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Animal Bites: Factsheet. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/animal-bites
- Dixon CA, Mahabee-Gittens EM, Hart KW, Lindsell CJ. Dog bite prevention: an assessment of child knowledge. J Pediatr. 2012;160(2):337-341.e332.
- Dixon CA, Pomerantz WJ, Hart KW, Lindsell CJ, Mahabee-Gittens EM. An evaluation of a dog bite prevention intervention in the pediatric emergency department. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013;75(4 Suppl 3):S308-312.
Dog Bites in Children Surge during COVID-19: A Case for Enhanced Prevention Cinnamon A. Dixon, DO, MPH, Rakesh D. Mistry, MD, MS
The Journal of Pediatrics
23 June 2020
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