As parents, it is natural to do everything possible to protect one’s child from injury. However, the nature of youth implies that it will be nearly impossible to do all the time. Even if they are not involved in sports, children by nature are constantly exploring the world around them which inevitably leads to bumps, bruises and scrapes. In some cases, it may even lead to a broken bone. Did you know that a broken bone, or fracture, is the fourth most common injury among children under the age of six?
Because it’s not a matter of if, but when your child gets injured, it’s important that you’re able to assess their injury and respond appropriately. Since fractures are so common, let’s discuss what to do when your child breaks a bone.
1. Know the Symptoms
Being able to tell when a bone is broken is not always as easy as one might think, especially if your child is too young to communicate how he or she is feeling. The most common signs that your child may have broken a bone include:
- Hearing an audible “snap” or a grinding noise at the time of injury
- Swelling, bruising or tenderness
- The injured part is difficult to move or hurts when moving, being touched, or bearing weight
Keep in mind that just because your child can move the bone doesn’t mean that it is not broken. If you suspect a fracture, notify your pediatrician immediately.
2. What to Do
Until your child can be seen by a medical professional such as your pediatrician, urgent care center or emergency room, it’s very important that you know how to respond appropriately. First of all, try your best to stay calm. Your child is likely both scared and in pain and losing your cool can worsen their fear and worry.
First and foremost, keep the injured bone in the position that you find it. To stabilize the injury and hold the bones still, you can carefully place a simple splint using a small board, piece of cardboard or rolled-up newspapers secured with an elastic bandage or tape.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises:
- Not to give the child anything by mouth to drink or to relieve pain without first consulting the doctor. If your child is older, you can use a cold pack or a cold towel, placed on the injury site, to decrease pain. Extreme cold can cause injury to the delicate skin of babies and toddlers, so do not use ice with children this young.
- Call 911 if your child has broken his or her leg. Don’t try to move them yourself. Instead, let the paramedics supervise his transportation and make the child as comfortable as possible.
- If part of the injury is open and bleeding, or if bone is protruding through the skin, place firm pressure on the wound; then cover it with clean (preferably sterile) gauze. Do not try to put the bone back underneath the skin. After this injury has been treated, be alert to any fever, which may indicate that the wound has become infected.
3. Follow Treatment Protocol
The good news is that children’s bones are more flexible compared to adults, making them better able to absorb shock. They are also less likely to require surgical repair.
In most cases, when a child breaks a bone it can be treated with the use of a molded cast. If the fracture is minor, they may only need an immobilizing splint.
For a displaced fracture, an orthopedic surgeon may have to realign the bones. This is done using one of two methods:
- Closed Reduction, in which the surgeon manipulates the bones until they are straight before applying a cast. Local or general anesthesia is used.
- Open Reduction is a surgical procedure that takes place in an operating room. Fortunately, open reductions are rarely necessary for children.
Regardless of the treatment plan, it’s important to follow all instructions from your provider. This includes keeping the cast dry and making sure your child uses any necessary equipment such as crutches to avoid bearing weight. This also means following recommendations regarding participation in any extracurricular activities.
Call your doctor if:
- Your child has an increase in pain, numbness, or pale or blue fingers or toes. These are signs that the extremity has swollen and requires more room within the cast. If the cast is not adjusted, it can result in permanent damage.
- The cast breaks, becomes very loose or if the plaster gets wet and soggy. A proper, secure fit is essential to hold the broken bone in position in order for it to heal correctly.
4. Focus on Prevention
As we mentioned, not all injuries can be prevented. Accidents happen. But, there are things that you can do to reduce the risk of your child breaking a bone. Some tips include:
- Choose playgrounds with cedar chips or a rubber floor surface instead of unforgiving concrete.
- If your child plays sports or participates in any organized physical activity, get a preseason checkup even if it is not required. Your child’s pediatrician will make sure they don’t have any injuries or health issues that might be risky.
- Make sure your child knows that safety equipment isn’t optional. Follow helmet and safety gear recommendations for young athletes and any child riding a bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, scooter, or any type of skates and rollerblades.
- Eat well and stay active. Proper nutrition and regular physical activity help build sturdy bones and strong muscles to support them.
About Paris Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Paris Orthopedic and Sports Medicine provides comprehensive orthopedic and musculoskeletal services for patients of all ages throughout Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma. We offer surgical and non-surgical treatments for sports injuries and a broad range of bone, muscle, and joint problems, including broken bones. Contact our office today at 903-737-0000 for more information or to schedule an appointment with a physician.