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Fractures, Sprains, and What to Do

Picture this. It’s a lovely day, and you’re watching your kids play in the backyard. You’re reading the most recent issue of South Jersey MOM when you hear a cry. You rush to help only to see your child on the ground, ankle swollen. So, what do you do?

This is a stressful situation. No parent wants to see their kid hurt, and you obviously want to make sure you take all the right steps. When it comes to an injury like this, you first need to determine whether you are dealing with a sprain or a fracture. While both sprains and fractures involve swelling and pain, fractures do have specific hallmarks.

- Immobility with severe pain
- Discoloration
- Heavy bleeding
- Snapping or grinding noise at time of injury
- Faintness, dizziness, and sickness
- Numbness around extremities
- Pain on top of bone
- Misshapen injury

If there are no signs of the above, you are probably dealing with a sprain. In that case, you should stick with the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate the affected area. For pain management, you can give your child Advil or Tylenol, but be sure to stay away from aspirin. In rare cases, aspirin can lead to medical complications in children. After a few days, if there is any discoloration in the area, you should see a doctor.

If you know it’s a fracture, however, you probably have to go to the emergency room. You can try going to a local Urgent Care, where they can help determine if it’s definitely a fracture, or treat minor fractures in the toes or fingers. Beyond that, however, Urgent Care centers will likely send you to the ER anyway. In addition, if there is any distortion, numbness, discoloration, or if the injury is in the back or neck, do not waste time. Go straight to the ER. Also, because setting a bone involves anesthetic, make sure you child doesn’t eat or drink after the incident.

When you know where to go, you have to start making decisions. Only drive the child yourself if you can do it without making the injury worse. If there is any chance it might, or if the case is serious, call 911. Not only will your child get to the hospital safely, the EMTs will also perform any necessary medical procedures. If medical services cannot reach you, you may need to make a splint to move them, but only as a last resort. When you meet with the doctor, be sure to help your child describe how the injury occurred, including any information that you can give. That will allow them to properly diagnosis the injury. After that, just let the doctors do their jobs. As for recovery, you’ll most likely be referred to a fracture clinic, such as the Rothman Institute, Penn Medicine, or Nemours Hospital. There, they’ll help your child recover properly so that they can go back to playing in the backyard on lovely days.


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