As a parent, you want to be able to protect your child from injuries, but accidents do happen. Parents sometimes get flustered and don’t know what to do when their child is injured. If you know what to expect ahead of time, you will be better equipped to respond if your child breaks a bone.
1. Know the signs of a broken bone.
Young children aren’t always able to describe what they are feeling, so it can be difficult to tell whether the bone is broken based on what they tell you. Look for swelling and an inability to move the limb. However, even if your child is able to move the limb without unbearable pain, the bone could still be broken. Sometimes the limb may be numb, which could be a sign of nerve injury.
2. Don’t try to treat it at home—seek emergency care immediately.
A broken bone requires immediate medical care. Kids’ bones heal faster than adults’ bones, so it’s important to get treatment before healing begins. Avoid giving your child pain medication until you have consulted with a doctor. You may use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to help with pain while waiting for emergency care, but avoid using ice packs on babies and toddlers, as the cold can damage their more delicate skin. If there is an open wound from bone sticking out, apply firm pressure on the area to help with bleeding, but do not attempt to push the bone back underneath the skin.
3. Do not try to manipulate or move the injured area yourself.
Attempting to move the injured area could result in further injury. If the arm is broken, you may wish to use a sling or use a rolled-up magazine or newspaper as a sling to prevent unnecessary movement. For broken legs, it is best not to try to move the child yourself. If you can, call an ambulance so that paramedics can assist in moving your child.
4. After treatment, look for signs of swelling or infection.
If the fracture resulted in an open wound, monitor your child’s temperature. If a fever is present, it could be a sign that the wound has become infected. If the limb has been placed in a cast, check for an increase in pain, numbness, and pale or blue fingers or toes. These are signs that the injury is swollen and needs more room in the cast, and you should call your child’s doctor immediately. The cast may need to be adjusted or replaced to make room for the swelling and avoid damage to the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels from the pressure. Try to have your child elevate the extremity for the first few days to help reduce swelling.
5. Care for the cast properly.
It’s important to keep the cast in good condition to help with recovery. You will need to help your child take care of the cast to make sure the bone heals properly. The cast needs to stay dry. You can purchase waterproof shields for the cast to use while bathing, or try a double layer of plastic wrap sealed with tape. Do not submerge the cast in water, even when it is covered. Do not allow your child to stick objects into the cast to scratch itchy skin, and do not attempt to break off or remove portions of the cast yourself. If the cast has any raw edges, cracks, or soft spots, contact your child’s doctor. Also, try to avoid getting the cast dirty.
Kids will be kids, and accidents will happen sometimes. It can be scary to see your child with an injury, but if you remain calm and get the right help, everything will be ok.