Health tips for travellers: How to prevent animal bites

Each year tens of millions of injuries are caused by dog bites. Want to avoid becoming part of the statistics? Read our tips on how to prevent animal bites abroad.

Animal bites pose a big health risk for both adults and children worldwide. 

Over 50% of animal-related injuries in travellers are caused by dog bites, and it is therefore recommended that you take precautions while travelling.

Why can animal bites be dangerous?

Animals have a lot of bacteria and viruses in their mouths, and if an animal bite breaks the skin, it can cause infection. 

Even though quick treatment can prevent serious infections, sometimes the infection can spread to the blood or other parts of your body. This can cause rabies, which is a serious disease that can develop as a result of bites from mammals such as dogs, cats, monkeys and bats.

Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal, and it is therefore crucial that you prevent animal bites on your trip.

How can you prevent animal bites?

During your travel, it’s very important that you try to avoid contact with any wild and domestic animals to prevent animal bites. 

It’s therefore recommended that you don’t approach any animals, don’t pick up ill or unusually tame animals and don’t attract stray animals, such as dogs, by being careless with litter or giving them food.

It’s also a good idea to avoid activities like cycling or running in areas with wild dogs, as this can increase your risk of getting a dog bite. Moreover, you should avoid visiting remote areas where medical care and post-exposure treatment may not be available.

What should you do if an animal bites you?

If an animal bites or scratches you or if they lick open skin, you should rinse the wound or the area under running water for several minutes, and then wash with soap and water to remove saliva. Afterwards, you should apply a disinfectant with 70% alcohol or iodine solution, and cover the wound with a simple dressing.

If animal saliva, such as spit, gets into your eyes, nose or mouth, you should wash the area thoroughly with clean water as soon as possible.

Even if the wound or the incident seems small, it’s important that you seek urgent medical help. This is because prompt post-exposure treatment is necessary, even if you have already had a full vaccine course, as further vaccine doses will be needed.

You should always ask for a written record of any post-exposure treatment you receive overseas, and you should contact your medical insurance company for help and advice.

When you return from your trip, it’s important that you seek medical advice if you have had any potential exposure. This is because you need a rabies vaccine course in the UK, even if you received post-exposure treatment abroad and the bite or exposure was weeks before.

Who is most at risk of animal bites?

Both adults and children are at risk of animal bites, but some groups of people can be at higher risk depending on different factors. For example, people visiting remote areas are at higher risk of being bitten, as wild animals are more likely to be present here.

However, regardless of whether or not you are at higher risk, it is likely that you will come into some type of contact with animals when you are abroad. The best thing you can do while travelling is therefore to try to avoid contact with all animals, so you can stay safe and enjoy your trip!

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