When you have broken a limb
The harder kids play, the harder they fall. The fact is, broken bones, or fractures, are common in childhood and often happen when kids are playing or participating in sports.
Most fractures occur in the upper extremities: the wrist, the forearm, and above the elbow. Why? When kids fall, it's a natural instinct for them to throw their hands out in an attempt to stop the fall.
Although many kids will have a broken bone at some point, it can be scary for them and parents alike.
Some signs that a bone is broken are:
- You or your child heard a snap or a grinding noise during the injury.
- There's swelling, bruising, or tenderness around the injured part.
- It's painful for your child to move it, touch it, or press on it; if the leg is injured, it's painful to bear weight on it.
- The injured part looks deformed. In severe breaks, the broken bone might poke through the skin.
Do not move your child and call for emergency care if:
- your child may have seriously injured the head, neck, or back
- The broken bone comes through the skin.
For less serious injuries:
- Remove clothing from or around the injured part. You may need to cut clothing off with scissors to prevent causing your child any unnecessary additional pain.
- Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in cloth.
- Place a makeshift splint on the injured part.
- Seek medical care and don't allow the child to eat, in case surgery is needed.
The doctor might decide that a splint is all that's needed to keep the bone from moving so it can heal. Whereas a cast encircles the entire broken area and will be removed by the doctor when the bone is healed, a splint usually supports the broken bone on one side.
If the cast or splint is on an arm, the doctor might give your child a sling to help support it. A sling is made of cloth and a strap that loops around the back of the neck and acts like a special sleeve to keep the arm comfortable and in place. A child with a broken leg will probably get crutches to make it a little easier to get around.
If the cast is causing your child's fingers or toes to turn pale, white, purple, blue, look swollen or feel numb the cast may be too tight or the swelling around the injured area has increased and you should call the doctor right away. Also be sure to call if the skin around the edges of the cast gets red or raw, that's typically a sign that the cast is wet inside from sweat or water.
More serious breaks:
Although most broken bones simply need a cast to heal, other more serious fractures might require surgery to be properly aligned and to ensure the bones stay together during the healing process. With breaks in larger bones or when the bone breaks into more than two pieces, the doctor may put a metal pin in the bone to help set it before placing a cast. And when the bone has healed, the doctor will remove the pin.
Fractures heal at different rates, depending upon the age of the child and the type of fracture. For example, young children may heal in as little as 3 weeks, while it may take 6 weeks for the same kind of fracture to heal in teens.
Although it's impossible to keep kids out of harm's way all the time, you can help to prevent injuries by taking simple safety precautions, such as childproofing your home, making sure kids always wear safety gear when participating in sports, and using car seats and seat belts.