Breaking a bone can be a scary experience for children and parents alike. Fortunately, they tend to heal quickly without complications.
Broken bones are one of the most common injuries in children — and considering the amount of running, jumping, and roughhousing they do, that’s no surprise. But if your child has broken a bone for the first time, it can certainly be scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect.
Fortunately, most broken bones in children aren’t serious. Because kids’ bones are more flexible than adults’, they tend to heal more quickly and breaks usually aren’t severe. If you’re worried that your child has a broken bone, here’s what you need to know.
Identifying a Broken Bone
Not every broken bone causes the same symptoms, so it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a break and a simple boo-boo. Though a snapping sound or an obvious bend in the limb can be sure signs that the bone is broken, many breaks are silent or invisible.
If your child has experienced an impact or fall, but you didn’t see immediate signs of a broken bone, call your doctor if he or she is still in pain after several hours. Swelling, bruising, tenderness to the touch, and an unwillingness to move the affected limb are other signs that the bone may be broken.
Because breaks and more minor injuries like sprains can present similar symptoms, a doctor will perform an X-ray to confirm that the bone is broken or fractured. The X-ray will also identify the break’s exact location, allowing your doctor to recommend the appropriate treatment.
Treating the Break
Once your child’s doctor has identified the type, severity, and location of the break, he or she may apply a cast. Casts are either made of plaster or fiberglass. Fiberglass is lighter than plaster, so it’s more likely to be used on less severe breaks where the bone hasn’t moved out of place.
Some children may not even need a cast. If your child isn’t in too much pain and still has some mobility in the broken limb, it may indicate that he or she has only experienced a slight fracture. If that’s the case, your child might only need to wear a sling or brace for a couple of weeks.
Your child’s doctor will let you know when you need to return to have the cast removed. In the case of more severe breaks, you may need to return for regular appointments in the next year or so after the cast is removed to ensure that the bone is continuing to heal properly. Some children may need to transition into a sling or splint for a few weeks after their cast removal.
Helping Your Child through Their Healing Process
A broken bone can be scary for parents, but children are often even more nervous and unsure of what to expect. They may be sad that they can’t participate in their usual sports and activities for a while, and they may be nervous asking their classmates to help them carry their books or take notes for them.
You can help ease your child’s experience by communicating with their coaches and teachers about making arrangements to ensure that they don’t feel left out or fall behind as they heal. His or her teacher may wish to assign them a “buddy” to help them get between classes, which can be especially beneficial if your child is nervous about asking for help.
Sending your child to school with a big pack of permanent markers is another way to make sure they feel included while their broken bone is on the mend, as many children love collecting cast signatures from their classmates.
Your child’s pediatrician also plays a huge role in soothing nerves and helping the healing process. If your child doesn’t have an established pediatrician, or if you’re looking for a new one, consider making an appointment with Kids’ Health. With a focus on supporting your child both physically and emotionally, we want to be there for you and your child through every stage of his or her life. Contact us today.