Biting In Childcare

At we get a lot of inquiries from parents and caregivers about dealing with children who bite in child care settings.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society's article, When Children Bite: What are the risks?, up to half of all children in day care centres were bitten during a one-year period, and that most bites happened in September at the beginning of the day care year. Toddlers (age 13 to 24 months) were bitten most frequently. Bites were most often to the arms and the face. Only one bite in 50 (2%) broke the skin.

While biting among children seems a natural part of childhood, there are those extreme and rare cases (roughly 2%), when biting actually breaks the skin. According to the CPS, these bites almost never lead to bacterial infections. Hence, the risk of transmitting a bacterial infection from a child bite appears to be very low, and a good cleansing of the wound should decrease the risk of a bacterial infection to almost zero.

Likewise, CPS notes that, "The risk of transmitting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through a bite in the day care centre, even when the skin is broken, is extremely unlikely. Treating a child with anti-HIV drugs is not recommended."

Parents should be notified in writing by way of an Injury/Illness Report upon their arrival of any injury to their child, whether or not the injury required treatment of any kind.

Accident/Illness ReportSamples of these and other forms may be found in our Business Forms section. Child care providers should also have a copy of each child's Medical Information Form available to ensure proper treatment is provided on an individual basis. These forms should be filled out by every parent prior to their child entering care.

Treating Bite Wounds

The Canadian Paediatric Society suggest that the usual precautions of wound care, as follows:

    * If the skin is not broken, clean the wound with soap and water, apply a cold compress and soothe your child gently.
    * If the skin is broken, let the wound bleed gently;
    * clean the wound carefully with soap and water;
    * apply a mild antiseptic;
    * check whether the child has been vaccinated against tetanus and make sure that the shot is up-to-date;
    * watch the wound over the next few days;
    * if it gets red or begins to swell, call your doctor; and talk with your doctor about whether your child needs a vaccine against hepatitis B.

Handling Biters

Most children are not repeat biters and generally only bite out of frustration. It is always best for parents to talk to their child care provider about how they handle situations when a child bites. Most caregivers prefer to talk with a child about the behaviour and/or give them an occasional and brief "time out". This generally let's the child know this type of behaviour is not acceptable.

When a child is a repeat offender more drastic measures must be taken for the safety of the other children. Children who bite often should have their behaviour managed on an individual basis. Consultation with the parents is usually sought and appropriate measures agreed upon and acted upon by both the parents and the provider.

Parents who's child is a recipient of frequent bites should be made aware of the provider's or centre's policy for handling these situations, as well as what precautions are being enlisted to ensure their child's safety. Communication is the key in this and any problem that evolves in care.