When Your Child Has a Broken Bone: What You Need to Know!

March 2, 2015

By: Gregory Y. Blaisdell, MD

No parent wants to see their child in pain, and a broken bone causes a lot of anxiety. In this article we’ll let you know how to provide the best care when your child has a broken bone.

Keep your Child Comfortable and Reduce Swelling

The most important thing for you to do is to follow the RICE treatment:

  • Rest. Have your child take a break from activity. If your child has a broken leg bone, have them avoid putting weight on their leg.
  • Ice. Use cold packs on your child for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to your child’s skin.
  • Compression. To prevent additional swelling, use an elastic compression bandage.
  • Elevation. To reduce swelling, have your child recline when they rest, and raise the broken bone up higher than their heart.

Provide Support Since Fractures Feel Better when Immobilized

If your child has a temporary splint from the Emergency Department we encourage you to keep it in place and dry until you are able to visit an orthopaedic specialist.

Make an Appointment Quickly

Since children’s bones heal faster than adults, your child should be seen by an orthopaedic provider as soon as possible.

Your Child’s Orthopaedic Appointment

At the initial appointment your child will be examined and the x-rays will be reviewed by the provider. Occasionally, different x-ray images or new comparison images will be obtained at the appointment to look for new displacement. A cast might be recommended depending on the degree of swelling. If the visit is with a non-surgical Orthopaedic provider, a follow-up with a surgeon might be recommended if there is enough displacement to warrant surgical consideration.

Understanding Fractures in Children

Fractures occur when too much force is applied to a bone and the bone breaks.  Unlike adults, children’s bones have the ability to break only part-way, or bend as they are breaking.  In addition, the periosteum, the soft tissue sleeve surrounding bone, is thicker in children, helping them heal rapidly and in good alignment.