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Reptiles as Pets and Child Safety

There is no doubt that reptiles have become very popular pets in recent years. As such the pool of information on their care is expanding. However, there is still much to learn about these exotic creatures, especially how safe they are in relation to children. There are certain risks when it comes to owning reptiles, especially large snakes.

For children the major concern with handling reptiles is bacteria. Most reptiles carry the salmonella bacteria in their intestines. It is common knowledge that salmonella can cause serious illnesses in people. Pregnant women and children who have not been fully immunized should not handle reptiles under any circumstance. Many experts also feel that it is not a good idea for children under three to be given reptiles as pets.

Anyone caring for young children should wash their hands properly after handling any reptile as it is easy to transfer bacteria to food containers and utensils. It is also a bad idea to allow reptiles to walk on kitchen counters or any other surface where food is prepared. In fact, don’t allow them access to any area of the house where food may be served.

Do not use the kitchen sink or your bathtub to wash reptiles or their cages; instead purchase a plastic basin for this purpose. Knowing how to handle reptiles is also very important. When handling reptiles or their cages wearing disposable gloves is one way to prevent infection.

Some turtles tend to snap at anything that comes into their enclosure, including the fingers of anyone attempting to hold them. The danger to small children cannot be overstated here – an adult should always supervise their interaction. Small children should never be left alone with large snakes. There have been many stories in the media about unattended children being crushed by pet snakes.

If handled properly, reptiles do make great companions. Clearly there are rules that must be followed, and it must be kept in mind that reptiles are not for everyone. Some pet stores will be able to provide useful information on the safety and handling of reptiles. So while there is not as much documentation on caring for them as there is for cats and dogs, there is much that can be done to ensure their longevity, and the safety of children who interact with them.


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