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Biting - Treatment Overview

In most cases, a doctor can help when your child has problems with biting others. Biting that injures someone or biting that continues after age 3 are signs that a child needs help controlling strong emotions. A doctor can assist parents and children with techniques that help a child express his or her feelings more appropriately. For example, your doctor can direct you to a class on parenting or on normal growth and development of children. These programs and other measures can help you understand why your child bites and how you can best respond.

Parents may need additional help if they are concerned about losing control over their actions when they are disciplining their child for biting. Anger management courses or counseling can help parents who feel overwhelmed in this way.

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Not all incidents of biting can be prevented. But biting can be reduced by looking for things in your child's life that may lead to this behavior. Usually these relate to your child's age.

  • Give babies who may be teething soft toys or teething rings specifically designed to safely ease this discomfort. Biting or chewing on a clean, frozen washcloth can also help. For more information, see the topic Teething.
  • Tell children ages 8 to 14 months that biting hurts other people. Exaggerate the pain if your child bites you, and say, "No! We do not bite!" or something similar.
  • Help children ages 15 to 36 months use words to express their feelings. Also, learn to recognize the signs that your child is about to bite. You may be able to stop biting before it happens by distracting or redirecting your child. Don't try to reason with young children or have lengthy discussions about biting. Use simple and direct language.

When to call a doctor after a bite

Usually a bite from a child is not harmful, and medical care is not needed. Call your doctor if the bite has pierced (broken) your child's skin. The doctor will check your child's immunization status, ask questions about how and when the bite occurred, and decide if your child needs antibiotics to help prevent infection.

For more information about biting that causes injury, see the topic Animal and Human Bites.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 08, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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