SUNDAY, March 8, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Young children are at the greatest risk for dog bites in the summer and are especially vulnerable to severe bites in the head and neck areas, say researchers who analyzed 84 cases of dog bites in children.
It's not clear why children are more likely to suffer dog bite injuries in the summer, but it may be because children spend more time outdoors playing with dogs in warmer months, the researchers suggested. Or it may be that dogs are generally more irritable in hot weather.
The study found that 27 percent of dog bite injuries were caused by family pets. The most common sites of bites to the head and neck were the cheeks (34 percent), lips (21 percent), and nose and ears (both 8 percent). Sixty-four percent of the children suffered dog bite wounds in more than one location, and the average wound size was 7.15 centimeters. Pit bulls were the breed most commonly involved in attacks.
The findings were published in the March issue of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
In the United States, dog bites account for about 1 percent of all emergency room visits, including 44,000 cases per year of facial injuries.
Implementation of more accurate and timely reporting of dog bites to local health officials can help educate medical professionals on how to identify dog bite trends and develop prevention strategies, the study authors said.
They recommended a system for uniform data collection that includes all the circumstances of the dog bite: signs of provocation; adequacy of child supervision; breed and sex of dog; spay-neuter status; history of prior aggression; dog restraint; time of event; patient's previous history of dog bites; length of dog ownership; location where injury occurred; disposition of dog after the event; and dog's vaccination history.
The researchers also said families need to be made aware that the risk of dog bites increases during the summer.
The American Veterinary Medical Association offers advice on how to prevent dog bites.