Sticks & Stones: Kids with Broken Bones – What to Do and How to Help

Halloween may look quite a bit different this year, but—as is ever the case—children can still get up to mischief. From climbing trees to playing sports, skateboarding to simple rough-housing, children don’t require a leg up when it comes to breaking a leg.

Like the seasons themselves, broken bones are nearly guaranteed. Watching for signs of a break (as opposed to strains and sprains) can help parents decide the best course of action. A little at-home triage can go a long way in both mending the damage and comforting our kiddos.

The expert team at Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons is here to offer a refresher course on caring for our children during stressful and painful breaks:


Identifying a break

Luckily for both parents and children, not every injury results in a broken bone. Strains and sprains can affect joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons—and they share quite a few symptoms with the dreaded fracture.

Pain and swelling in the affected area are par for the course with both types of injuries. Bruising is sure to follow both sprains and breaks. Children may more or less describe the degree of pain they’re in, but it’s up to parents to determine the actual damage.

Deformity in the affected area is the surest sign of a fracture, but not all breaks are severe enough to present visibly. The primary difference between strains/sprains and fractures comes down to use of the limb. If your child simply cannot put any weight on or through the affected area, there’s likely a fracture somewhere.

As always, a physician should be able to settle the matter definitively.


How to help

It’s safe to say that most parents aren’t trained to set a bone at home or administer anything more serious than anti-inflammatory drugs. Depending on the severity of the fracture, several home treatment options can comfort your children while waiting for an appointment with a physician or before driving to the ER.

Start with stabilizing the affected area to reduce movement. For injuries below the waist, the common wisdom holds—raise the affected limb above the heart (as with pillows while laying down) to help with swelling. Slings are easily fashioned for injuries in the arms and taping a splinting object around a broken finger (such as a pen or stick) is always a good start.

In older children, swelling can be treated with cold packs or bags of ice. Beyond these treatments, it’s best to consult a physician.

In the event of a compound fracture (in which an open wound or break in the skin appears near the affected site), it’s best to seek immediate medical help.


Don’t panic

For parents and children alike, the best bit of advice is to stay calm. Children look to us for guidance during painful and stressful times. Avoid panicking and attend to the injury as best you can before seeking professional help.

The team at Alabama Orthopaedic Surgeons can’t prevent your children from breaking a bone or two, but they can help in the aftermath. For calm, compassionate, expert help during a fracture, call 205-838-4747 to schedule an appointment or visit us online.

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