Emergency Care For Your Child's Broken Arm Or Leg
A hike out in the country with the family can be exciting, but it's also dangerous. Away from access to emergency services, you need to know how to react should one of your children break a bone. They recover quickly from such accidents, but the sooner you act, the less likely your child will have long-term problems because of the break. Here is how to handle the three most common fractures your child could have outdoors.
This is often the result of stepping off of a surface onto an unsteady place, like a wet stone, and sliding off with the ankle at an extreme angle. The result is torn ligaments that hold the ankle bones together and a fracture of one or more bones in the joint between the foot and lower leg.
There will be redness, warmth and inflammation over the break. Rarely does this fracture cause the bone to come through the skin. Your child won't be able to put weight on their foot and they can have mild to moderate pain. Stabilize the injury before you take your child to the emergency room.
- Carry your child to a safe place where they can lie down flat.
- Wrap the ankle in a towel, shirt or other cloth so the material is snug. Don't make it so tight as to cut off circulation. An ankle fracture needs some support but not as much as a broken long bone.
- Get your child to the car and lay them down in the back with the injured leg up. This reduces the pain in the ankle by reducing circulation to the injured area.
Your child can step into a crevice and fall, breaking their lower leg. The leg could also be hit, or they could fall against a stone that causes the break. If there is a wound where the bone has broken through the skin, you'll take care of that before stabilizing the fracture.
- If a wound exists, place a piece of clean cloth over it. If blood is still flowing out of the wound, hold slight pressure on the cloth for a few minutes until it stops. Then wrap another cloth around the wound and secure it loosely.
- Find one or two stiff objects to stabilize the fracture such as boards, sticks, or even magazines. Place the items on either side of the leg where the injury occurred. If using magazines, roll them up tightly to create a rigid shape. Wrap a cloth, belts or similar materials around the objects and the leg. These will keep the leg from moving at the point of the break.
- If you can find nothing to stabilize the fracture, wrap the two legs together to act as a splint.
- Place the child in your car with their leg slightly elevated for the ride to the hospital.
A leg fracture may require orthopedic surgery from a doctor like Jon B. Greenfield MD, depending on where the fracture occurred. At the ends of the long bones in the child is an area called the growth plate. This is where the new bone growth occurs that gives the bones their length. Should the fracture occur through this growth plate, bone growth in your child's leg could be disrupted. Surgery will repair the damage to allow normal bone growth to happen.
A broken lower arm can happen from a fall, a blow to the arm or a sudden twisting motion. In young children, their bones are so flexible that their arm can partially break and come back together, like bending a green stick. If there is a wound, treat it as directed above for a broken leg, then stabilize the fracture.
- Have your child hold their arm against their body.
- Wrap a towel, shirt or blanket around the arm and their body.
- This will normally keep the arm from moving while transporting your child.
- If there is too much movement with this approach, then use small objects to splint the arm as with the broken leg. You can also wrap a magazine around the arm where the fracture occurred for a medium amount of support.
Knowing these basic skills for stabilizing a fracture in your child when out in the wild will protect their bones from further injury until they are treated. Children are resilient and recover from such accidents quickly. Your quick reaction to such injuries will help get you and your child back out on the trails sooner.