From climbing trees to monkey bars, to riding bikes and rough housing and everything in between, bone fractures can be a common childhood injury. Even though they are common events, it can be unnerving if your child breaks a bone. It is important to know what types of pediatric fractures children are at risk for and how to care for them during the healing stages. This can be a frustrating time for both parents and children. Parents often find that children need encouragement and emotional support while wearing a cast and allowing a broken bone to heal.
Types of Pediatric Fractures
Children’s bones can break in several different ways. A fracture generally unique to children is a plastic deformation, or microscopic fracture, and cannot be detected by an x-ray. This type of fracture is usually found on the lower arms or legs. A buckle fracture results from compression and is most commonly seen in the lower arm. When a bone is bent, you get a greenstick fracture. Depending on the severity and direction of this type of fracture, the bone may need to be reset. A complete fracture occurs when the bone is broken all the way through. These pediatric fractures can be further classified as spiral, transverse, or oblique. Some fractures break through the skin, otherwise known as open fractures. No matter what kind of break your child has suffered, it is important that a physician treats pediatric fractures. Normal bone healing is important to your child’s growth and development.
If you suspect your child has sustained a broken bone, you should immediately apply ice to the area. Then find a way to protect the extremity from moving or bearing any weight. Look for any bleeding or open wounds that may need covered or treated. You will also want to assess whether the child still has full movement and sensation of the area and limb. If there is loss of sensation or movement, there could be more than just bone involved in the injury. Seek medical care from an emergency department or your child’s physician, who may refer you to an orthopedist, or bone specialist.
Helping Your Child Adjust to Life with a Cast
It can be hard for children to adjust to having a broken bone and a cast. Unfortunately, most bones will take several weeks to heal and some bones may even require surgery. Allow your child to make choices whenever possible, such as what color of cast to get, whether or not to allow people to sign his or her cast and if so, what color of markers to use. If possible, and with the permission of your doctor, allow your child to participate in as many normal activities as possible. For instance, a child with a broken arm can still participate in physical activities such as jogging, hiking and some sports. He or she can still bath or shower with a bag taped around the cast. You can also purchase special waterproof cast covers to allow your child to properly complete their hygiene needs. Your child may also need to be reminded that this healing process does not last forever. Some parents help their child celebrate with a special treat or a trip once the cast is removed.
Tips on Cast Care
If your child’s cast becomes wet or broken, notify the doctor right away. Bones in poorly cared for or broken casts will not heal quickly or as well. You should discourage your child from trying to scratch underneath the cast, as this can cause damage. If itching is a frequent problem with your child’s cast, discuss it with the doctor to help find solutions. You or your child should not remove anything from the cast or add anything to it, as this can impact its integrity and cause support problems. If your child notices a decrease in sensation to the extremity, or fingers or toes, contact your doctor. Increased swelling or pain should also be reported to your physician.
Thankfully, most broken bones heal within several weeks. However, this can be a difficult time for both kids and parents alike. It can help to remember that this is a temporary problem that must be treated in order for your child to grow and function normally.