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Kids and Rabies

Rabies is a dangerous virus that is found in the saliva of animals. It can infect and kill animals and humans. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from rabies. Even though anyone can get rabies, more than half of the people who get rabies are kids under the age of 15.

People usually get rabies when they are bitten by an animal that has the virus. When it's likely that you or a child is at serious risk for rabies, get help right away. Symptoms of rabies might not show up for months, but it is important to receive proper care very soon. When symptoms of rabies appear, people often die within a few days.

Photo: A boy and his dog going for a walk.Early symptoms of rabies in people can include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • weakness

As it gets worse, symptoms may include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • tingling sensation (usually at the site of the bite)
  • excitation (being too excited)
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • agitation
  • salivating (drooling) more than usual
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fear of water

Below, you will learn about things you can do that will help make sure you never get rabies. Once you've read to the end, encourage a child to read through the information with you. Then visit the Kids and Rabies Web site to learn more about rabies and to take a fun test of your rabies knowledge.

Help Your Pets Stay Rabies Free

Most people who have pets, such as dogs and cats, are very close to their animal companions. You might even have children and pets that are very close to each other. But there are times when pets are also in close contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal that has rabies, your pet can get sick and die. It could also cause you or a child to get rabies from your sick pet.

When a human gets rabies, it's often because a pet got rabies first. The good news is that there are things children and adults alike can do to help make sure your pets never get rabies. That way, they will stay healthy and won't cause humans to get rabies.

Photo: A veterinarian with a girl and her cat.Things you should do include:

  • Take your pets to a veterinarian on a regular basis. They will keep your pets up-to-date on their rabies shots, which helps protect them from rabies.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your pet. This helps cut down on the number of stray animals.
  • Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood. These animals may not have gotten their rabies shot and can give other animals and people rabies.
  • Remind kids not to go near stray animals and remind them to tell an adult if they see a pet wandering around without any person watching them closely.
  • Keep your pets indoors. When a dog goes outside, make sure an adult is there to watch it and keep it safe. Make sure children know not to take their pet outside without an adult around.
  • Do not feed or put water for your pets outside. Keep your garbage covered. These items may cause wild animals to come near your yard or house.

Stay Away From Wild Animals

Most of the time, rabies is found in wild animals. The main animals that get rabies include raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

If you see a wild animal acting strangely, stay away from it. Help kids to understand that they should avoid wild animals at all times. Some things to look for are:

  • General sickness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Lots of drool or saliva
  • An animal that appears more tame than you would expect
  • An animal that bites at everything
  • An animal that's having trouble moving or may even be paralyzed

Animals that act this way may need to be helped by people who know how to take care of wild animals. Call animal control and make sure the animal gets the help it needs.

Sometimes, people may come across a dead animal. Never pick up or touch dead animals and make sure children know to stay away from dead animals. Animals who have died can still give people rabies, especially if they have only been dead for a short time. If a dead animal is spotted, call animal control to properly take care of the animal's body.

Get Help If An Animal Bites You

Animals can sometimes bite people even when you try to avoid them. If an animal bites you, seek help immediately. Let kids know that they should tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by an animal. Show them how to wash with soap and water so that they will know what to do if they are bitten. They should then be taken to a doctor who will know what to do next.

Most of the time, people know when an animal bites them. But that's not always the case with bats, which are one of the main animals that can give you rabies. Bats have small teeth that might not always be felt when they bite and they don't always leave bite marks that are easily seen.

Bats can be found indoors or out. Make sure children know to tell an adult when:

  • a bat comes near or touches them
  • a bat flies into their room or place where they sleep
  • they find a dead bat
  • they hear others talk about touching a living or dead bat

Visit CDC's Kids and Rabies Web Site

Photo: CDC Rabies and Kids screenshot

Visit CDC's Kids and Rabies website.

CDC Kids and Rabies website is where children can learn more about how rabies affects animals and humans and get more tips on how to prevent rabies.

The website features an interactive quiz and e-cards, buttons, and badges that can be sent to family and friends so they can learn about rabies too.

NOTE: If you've read this website, you have all the information you need to ace the quiz. So, take the quiz by yourself or with your child and share the information so you can help protect others from getting rabies.


More Information

  • Page last reviewed: August 26, 2013
  • Page last updated: August 26, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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