As such, children always seems to be involved in gravity defying stunts and games. With high energy levels and the running, jumping and overall Brownian motion type movements they engage in, it should come as no surprise that broken bones is one of the most common injuries afflicting children. Infact, fractures happen to be the fourth most common injury among children under the age of six, and are usually due to falls and slips.
What Causes Broken Bones In Children?
Children by nature are extremely curious. When babies first begin moving, they will be climbing, jumping up, down, under anything and everything. Until they have complete control, there will be frequent falling involved as well. While babies and toddlers tend to have softer, more pliable bones than us which results in the bones bending but not breaking most of the time, falling from high places or other accidents can lead to broken bones. This does not imply that parents start feeling guilty about it! Falling, tripping and slipping is all, but a part of the game. The good news is that children’s bones heal much faster than ours do as well. They have soft, tick covering of flesh and tissues and can absorb the blow better than us adults. Surgery to correct a broken bone is rarely required, and most often a cast or a splint and restricted movement helps the healing of the fracture.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Fracture In Children
Firstly, you should remember that not every fall will result in a broken bone. However, if your child has had a fracture after a fall or an accident, he is most likely to show the below signs of broken bones:
- You could hear a snapping sound when trying to move the affected limb
- A limb bent out of shape and swelling in that area
- Severe pain concentrated in that area, the child might be paler than usual
- Bruising and tenderness in the limb
- Stiffness and deformity in the injured body part
- Older children might refuse to stand or walk or might limp
Babies might have swelling even if there is simply a sprain. If your child is not in too much pain, you can wait for a day to see if the swelling reduces before consulting the doctor. In case of any signs of a fracture, the child should be taken to the doctor or emergency room immediately. If the injury is on the head, neck or back or a severe fracture don’t move the child but call an ambulance instead. Read about head injuries here.
Severe Fractures In Kids
In case of a severe fracture, also look out for signs of shock, internal bleeding, irregular pulse, coughing up blood, shallow breathing, lack of consciousness etc. Never try to move your child or make him eat anything until help arrives. Do not force a limb out of clothes, use a scissors patiently to cut clothes. Most of the fractures in kids happen to be on the wrist, forearm and above the elbow as children try to stop the fall by throwing their hands in the forward. This is very much a natural instinct.
How To Treat A Fracture In A Child?
Until you can reach medical help, the hospital or your doctor, the child’s limb must be immobilized to reduce the chance of further injury. This can be done through ICES:
- ICE to reduce the pain and swelling (an ice pack, ice cubes in a towel or a bag of frozen peas will also work)
- COMPRESS After icing, snugly wrap an elastic bandage around the joint leaving room for one finger ( in case of further swelling)
- ELEVATE the injured bone by placing it under a pillow so it is approximately 6″ above the heart
- SUPPORT the arm with a makeshift cast of rolled up newspapers, rulers or clothes
Types Of Fractures
At the hospital or clinic, an X-Ray will be done first to determine the type of fracture:
- Greenstick which is like a twig breaking from a tree. It is when the bone breaks only on one side
- Torus fracture is when the bone is not fully fractured but has twisted and become weak
- Bend are the most common type of fractures and again the bone is not broken but is bent
- Growth plate fractures are those affect the plates at the end of the bones. These plates aid in growth. These are the most serious kind of fractures as it can have permanent implications
Apart from these fractures toddlers tend to have a specific type of fracture which involves the shin bone breaking in a spiral. These are difficult to identify.
For simple or minor breaks, a fiberglass cast is usually worn until the bone has mended but a more severe fracture would involve the doctor first re-aligning the bone. This however, is very rare in children.
Preventing Broken Bones in Babies and Children
It is important for babies and children to run, jump and be involved in different physical activities. Steps that parents can take to prevent broken bones is to ensure a safe environment. Infants and toddlers should not be within reach of precarious or harmful items or positions. Children should always wear safety gear when they are playing sports or are cycling. Use the car seats and seatbelts when you are driving them around.
Children should also be given enough calcium-rich foods to grow strong bones. Be aware of diseases that can cause brittle bones in children.
Most of all, relax. Even if your child has endured a fracture, with a little rest and care, he will be up and running in no time.