Since kids’ bones are porous, they’re more likely to sustain a break than a sprain. If your child takes a major tumble, use this info from Joshua M. Abzug, M.D., director of pediatric orthopedics at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, to help ID and treat a fracture as effectively as possible.
Signs That It May Be Serious
The Limb Looks Dislocated
If your kid’s finger or ankle seems displaced, that’s probably a break. But not all fractures cause visible dislocation, so look for swelling, bruising, or tenderness, too.
Your Kid Heard a Snap
If there was a grinding sound when your child got hurt, she likely broke a bone. Another sign? A lot of pain, even if she didn’t hear a pop.
What to Do
Skip the Pediatrician
“The pediatrician’s office often doesn’t have an x-ray machine or splinting material, so head straight to a hospital or urgent care,” says Dr. Abzug. It’s fine to drive — unless your child’s bone has broken through his skin or his pain is worse when you pick him up. If so, call 911.
Stabilize While in Transit
“Never, ever try to realign a dislocation unless you are trained to do so,” Dr. Abzug warns. Instead, immobilize the injured area by resting it on a hard-back book or cutting board and using an Ace bandage to keep it steady.
Pay Attention in the ER
“Splints that are applied incorrectly can increase pain, cause swelling, and delay healing,” Dr. Abzug notes. Check that an injured ankle is wrapped at a 90-degree angle, or that a wrist splint leaves room for fingers to fully bend. A strip of cotton between skin and elastic bandages helps prevent sores.
Check in with a pediatric orthopedic specialist within three days.
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