Bites, stings and contact with plant or animal: 3 - 4 years

How big a problem is it?

These are the injuries caused when a child is struck, bitten or otherwise injured by a plant or animal such as a dog or insect. This category of injury is the third leading cause of non-fatal injury among children 0-14. The problem has remained at similar levels recently. 

Who does it affect?

This 3 – 4 years age group is vulnerable to all sub-categories of injury but contact with dogs is the largest single cause of injury. At least one child aged 3 -4 years is admitted to hospital for these types of injuries each week. 

Dog attacks account for over half of admissions for 3 - 4 year olds. Being bitten or stung by a non-venomous insect is another risk factor for this age group. 

Māori had the highest rate of hospitalisation from 2013-2017, with more than twice the rate of European/other children. Pacific Island children had the second-highest rate. Māori children are especially prone to being injured by a dog, with injury rates around four times the rate of European children (Note that these rates are for all children aged 0 -14 years). 

The evidence for actions that prevent these injuries is not as strong as other types of injury. We have some tips for which the evidence is uncertain. But we still do recommend you consider them a possible prevention for these types of injury.

Top Tips

  • Keep dogs away from babies and toddlers

  • Separate dogs from small children with a fence, cage or by tying them up.

  • Supervise and restrain the dog when it is near young children. 

  • Have good conversations with families about the possible benefits of neutering male dogs and avoiding choosing unsafe breeds as pets

  • Educate everyone in the home about the potential risks 

  • Educate children how to interact with unfamiliar and pet dogs (see links below)

First Aid

  • If your young child is injured by a dog, sting or having crashed into another child and is unconscious, find CPR instructions here

  • If your child has a body part, such as a fingertip, that has been bitten off, put the part that was cut off in a sealed plastic bag right away. Put the bag in a container with ice water.

  • If you suspect a broken or fractured bone see the first aid steps here at this KidsHealth page

  • If you are not alone, call 111 or ask someone to call for you. 

  • Do not stop performing CPR until medical help arrives and takes over. 

  • Control bleeding by applying pressure with an absorbent cloth or pad.

  • If you are not alone, get non-urgent advice from HealthLine (0800) 611 116 or the National Poisons Centre 0800 764 766 in the case of jellyfish, insects and spider bites etc.


First aid treatment for jellyfish stings, insect and spider bites

  • Flush with water and gently remove any tentacles. Hot water is a good option but exercise caution as babies and infants are vulnerable to burns from hot water.


Antibiotics and a tetanus vaccination or booster may be required. For more information about tetanus, see the Safekids link below or contact the Immunisation Advisory Centre 0800 IMMUNE (466863). See the Immunisation Advisory Centre page on Tetanus here.

Links to Safekids’ resources

Child Dog Bite Hospitalisations in NZ

Links other organisations’ resources

Dept Internal Affairs Dog Safety Website

Waikato University Publication: Keeping Our Children Safe Around Dogs

Dog Safety