With warmer weather fast approaching, you and your kids are likely looking forward to spending more time outdoors. Playing organized sports or simple backyard activities can increase the risk for bone and joint injuries in children. Families often wonder which injuries require a trip to the emergency room and which can wait for the pediatrician or orthopedist during regular office hours. These are decisions that need to be made quickly and parents may be unaware of the signs and symptoms of more serious injuries.
Here are some important steps to follow if your child sustains an injury this summer:
WHAT TO DO
• Keep them still and help them support the injured area. Most kids will instinctively hold their arm or leg in the safest and most comfortable position after an injury.
• Make sure they are breathing normally (crying is a good sign that they are getting plenty of oxygen) and help comfort them so they remain calm.
• Check to see if the injured area looks normal. Severe fractures (those that need to be treated at the emergency room) usually exhibit some degree of visual abnormality. The arm or leg may be bent or badly swollen.
• Check to see if there is any bleeding near the injured area. This could mean that the fracture is “open,” which means the bone might have broken and poked through the skin. This should also be treated at the emergency room.
• Check to see if fingers or toes are pink. This means that there is good blood flow and the injury has not damaged any blood vessels. If the fingers or toes are not pink, you will need to go to the emergency room.
• Finally, if the injured area looks normal, if there is no bleeding, and if the fingers or toes are pink; ask your child to gently move the joints (elbow, wrist, ankle, etc.) near the injured area. This might be a bit painful if a sprain or strain has occurred. However, most children will not move the joints near a badly broken bone because it will be too painful. If they are unable to move these joints due to the pain, you should go to the emergency room.
If everything appears normal from the steps above, it is probably safe to wait and make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or orthopedic surgeon during regular office hours.
If you feel you need to go the emergency room, then it is important to support the arm or leg with a large pillow, stack of towels, or rolled up newspapers. This will provide some comfort and support while on the way to the emergency room.
WHAT NOT TO DO
• Don’t apply a tight wrap or constricting bandage. Broken bones cause swelling that could be made worse by tight bandages.
• Don’t try to “set” or realign the arm or leg. Doing so could cause further damage and pain.
• Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink before a nurse or doctor in the emergency room says to do so. Giving your child food or drink could delay the use of certain medications to help control the pain and repair the broken bone.
By following these steps, you can help your child remain calm and determine what care is necessary while also minimizing pain or the risk of further injury.
Dr. Derek Kelly is a Pediatric Surgeon with Campbell Clinic. To schedule an appointment call 901.759.3100 or visit http://www.campbellclinic.com