As a parent, you try to protect your child from accidents, but a broken bone is an inevitable part of many childhoods. Up to half of boys and 40% of girls experience a fracture. Forearm fractures are the most common type of broken bone.
Our board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Coastal Empire Orthopedics diagnoses and treats many pediatric fractures. The time it takes to heal a fracture in a child depends on the fracture type and which bone is broken.
Once the bone is set, and the cast is on, you and your child now are responsible for following all of the instructions so healing proceeds in a timely fashion.
Following are tips to help your child care for a broken bone.
Rest, ice, and elevation
Dr. Shults has placed a splint or cast on the broken bone to immobilize it and keep it safe while the bone heals. Explain to your child that there will be less pain if the broken bone is elevated. Prop up the arm or leg above your child’s heart when possible. This minimizes swelling and reduces pain.
During the first two days, ice the area where the broken bone is. Put the ice pack on the cast or splint for 20 minutes every hour or two. Use over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the first few days unless we’ve given you a prescription pain reliever.
Check the extremities
Sometimes casts need adjustments. Can your child wiggle his fingers or toes? If they turn a color such as white, red, or blue, or if you see swelling, call the office, and we’ll see your child to adjust the cast.
Keep the cast clean and dry
Plaster casts shouldn’t get wet, and it’s not a good idea for fiberglass casts to get wet. You can buy a cast cover that seals the opening. Keep the cast free of dirt. Help your older child take a shower by sitting in a shower chair and keeping the leg out of the water. Use sponge baths for a toddler or small children.
You’ll be coming in for follow-ups, but if the cast becomes loose or it gets wet, call our office, and we’ll schedule another appointment immediately. The cast must fit correctly to hold the bone in position to heal properly.
Handling itching from a cast
Sometimes casts can itch. Tell your child it’s crucial not to stick a pencil or anything else into the cast to try to scratch the skin. Scratching could lead to a skin infection, causing more problems.
Blow cool air from a hair dryer into the top of the cast to help calm itchiness. Ask your doctor about giving your child Benadryl at bedtime.
Make the cast a decorative object
If your child is artistic, let him decorate the cast with drawings. Have your child’s friends add their get-well wishes to the cast.
Brainstorm a list of alternate activities while your child heals
If you have a small child, keep them occupied with activities that avoid the use of the injured area. Older children understand the importance of protecting the broken bone but need reminders. If the lower leg is fractured, your child cannot bear weight on the leg for a while. Dr. Shults lets you know when the cast can be taken off and when your child can bear weight on his leg.
When the cast comes off
Prepare your child that the area where the cast was is going to feel different when the cast comes off. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments haven’t been used for some time, so they will be somewhat stiff.
Dr. Shults tells you and your child what stretches to do to relieve stiffness. He’ll likely prescribe physical therapy to help your child regain range of motion and strength. Dr. Shults also lets you know when your child can safely rejoin his sports team and engage in all regular activities again.
Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics or book an appointment online for all your family’s orthopedic needs.