Never has a parent told a child “Go ahead. Please break your bone so we can spend the next 12+ hours in the emergency room.” While it is healthy for parents to encourage their children to be active, not a one has prayed for this activity to lead to a broken bone. Unfortunately, broken bones are commonplace leaving parents wondering about the most frequent fractures, how these broken bones occur, and if there is any way – short of bubble wrapping your child – to avoid an unplanned trip to the doctor.
Most Common Broken Bones
This article will extend forever if listing all the ways a child can end up with a broken bone (pretending to change the oil in a play car on top of a weight bench, taking a skateboard down a slide, slipping on the dish soap spread on the floor to make an ice rink, etc.) Instead, the following includes the most common broken bones in children according to Boston Children’s Hospital:
- Broken collarbone or shoulder
- Broken Arm (most common)
- Broken elbow
- Broken forearm, wrist, or hand
- Broken hip
- Broken thigh bone or knee
- Broken leg, foot, or ankle
So, basically everything. Children break everything.
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Questions to Ask if You Suspect Your Child has a Broken Bone
One of your kids just double bounced another off your bed. What should you do next? Ask yourself the following questions if you believe your child may have broken a bone:
- Is there pain or swelling around the injury?
- Is the affected area obviously misshaped?
- Does your child have complication moving the injured area?
- When you look at the affected area, is it radiating warmth, or show bruising, or redness?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, you have a few options.
What to do if you Suspect Your Child Has a Broken Bone
Always contact your child’s pediatrician for his or her recommendation as your initial step. If the pediatrician recommends immediate action, ask if there is a walk-in orthopedic urgent care clinic in your area that will see children. These clinics do not require an appointment and usually incur a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit. If the pediatrician suggests you wait to be seen by a specialist, request a contingency plan while you wait as it can sometimes take weeks to get an appointment.
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How to Care for a Broken Bone
So your kid did indeed break a bone. What do you need to know so you don’t mess anything up? First and foremost, follow your physician’s recommendations. This is an everyday occurrence for the doctors and the rules are in place for a reason. If your child needs a cast, pay special attention to the cast care instructions which often include not getting the cast wet, keeping it clean, and not sticking anything down the cast (like a pencil) to scratch a persistent itch.
Preventing Broken Bones
There are a few things you can do as a parent to help prevent your child from breaking a bone. One of those things includes saying “no” to bunk beds and trampolines. Another includes requiring your child to always wear a helmet when on a bike or scooter. To prevent toddler falls, make sure use safety gates on the top and bottom of main stairways and refrain from using infant walkers.
Sport injuries are common occurrence in children. If you have children who are active in sports, make sure to schedule a pre-season physical which will rule out or treat any injuries prior to the season beginning. Additionally, start training at home before practices begin and make sure your child is on a team that is at his or her level and not too far above. Most importantly, do not encourage your child to “play through the pain”. Ignoring an injury can result in retiring early from a sport – or a lifetime of pain and doctor visits.
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How Kid Bones Differ From Adult Bones
Whether dealing with a broken bone or not, understanding the difference between kid bones and adult bones can help equip you for the future. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta lists a number of differences between the bones of children and adults:
- Newborn babies have more bones. Born with nearly 300 bones, as a child ages, some of these bones grow together as bone cartilage hardens ending with 206 bones as an adult.
- Kids are always growing. When children grow, so do their bones, meaning a broken bone can become straight overtime.
- Children have more flexible bones. With a slightly different “chemical composition…a kid’s bone might bend or ‘bow’ instead of breaking”.
- Kids heal quicker than adults. Growing bones equate to quicker healing.
- Smaller bones = the need for braces, techniques, and devices designed specifically for children.
Watching your child hurt without the ability to ease his or her pain is an unbearable sight. Next time you have an injury with a suspected break in your household, ask the right questions and contact your pediatrician. Kids will be kids and oftentimes, that equates to broken bones. With summer coming up, no one wants a cast to lug around so have fun, be careful, and think twice before encouraging little Timmy to jump from the deck into the pool. Joking. Sort of.
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