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Assessing and treating dog bites

Every year in Illinois and across the U.S., 1 in 775 people seek emergency care for dog bite injuries, most of them boys between five and nine years old. Dog bites tend to be around the head and neck in children under the age of 10, resulting in lacerations, punctures, avulsions or crush injuries. Those who are injured will want to immediately wash the wound and seek medical attention, as signs of infection will appear within 24 hours.

Nurses and other healthcare providers can assess dog bites, looking for damage to tendons, ligaments, nerves and bones and checking for proper motion and neurologic function. They will also note patient data like previous rabies and tetanus immunizations, drug allergies and conditions that may have increased the patient's risk for injury.

If the bite penetrated a bone, healthcare providers may request an X-ray. All dog bites, whether from strays or the family pet, are reported to the Department of Health. Antibiotics, usually Augmentin, make up the standard treatment for dog bites.

Healthcare providers will also assess the risk for rabies based on factors like the dog's vaccination status, whether the attack was provoked or not and if the bite was to the head and neck. Victims with crush injuries, wounds deeper than a centimeter or contaminants in the wound normally receive a tetanus vaccine, too.

Those who are injured by someone else's dog will want to find out if and how the owner was negligent. They may hire a lawyer to build up a dog bite injury case and strive for damages covering their medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. The lawyer might hire third parties to gather important information, such as the patient data that the healthcare provider took down when assessing the bite. The lawyer can handle all negotiations.

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