Treating Minor Childhood Injuries
Sports and other physical activities can help kids stay healthy and physically fit, but they can also occasionally result in injuries. Scrapes and sprains are a fact of life for most children, so it’s good to know what to do when they occur.
Scrapes and cuts
When a child gets a scrape or cut, the flow of blood can make even a minor cut look like an emergency. Minor injuries should stop bleeding after a few minutes. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following treatment plan:
Apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes to stop any bleeding.
Wash the wound with plain water and look for any debris.
Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound. Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage or other dressing that is airtight and watertight.
When to call your child's healthcare provider
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child gets worse in any way, or if the wound:
Strains and sprains
Generally, a strain is when the muscle has stretched too far and partly tears. It can look bruised. Pain, soreness, and swelling can develop several hours after it happens.
A sprain is a more serious injury that may involve the tearing of ligaments. In a mild sprain, the ligament is overstretched. More severe sprains can involve partial tearing of the ligament, or complete tearing.
With a sprain, the injured area usually swells right away. Your child may be in a lot of pain. Sprains can take weeks to heal and can feel like a broken bone.
Because children are more likely to break a bone than suffer a sprain, it is important to check with your child's healthcare provider if your child complains of a lot of pain, especially if it is over an area of bone. Children are still growing. Fractures that happen through the growth centers need to be followed closely.
According to the AAP, the signs and symptoms of sprains in young children can be quite similar to those for a fracture. They can include:
Swelling around the joint
Inability to walk, bear weight, or use the joint
If your child has a sprain or strain, have him or her stop putting any weight on the injured area right away. For general treatment, follow the RICE rule:
Rest the injured part
Put Ice or cold compresses on the area several times a day to reduce swelling
Compress the area with a splint or bandage to prevent swelling
Elevate the injured part so that it’s above the heart.
Relieving the pain
When treating injuries from sports and other activities, pain relievers can be helpful in soothing the child and reducing inflammation. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are pain relievers that are available over the counter. They are generally safe to use with few side effects when given in the correct dosage.
Both types of pain relievers come in liquid drops or chewable tablets that children can take easily. Ibuprofen should not be given to children ages 6 months and younger. Be sure to read the directions on the package. Don't give more than the dosage or give doses too close together. Be cautious when giving these medicines in combination with others.
Don't give your child aspirin unless your child's healthcare provider tells you to. Aspirin may cause a serious condition called Reye syndrome.
For scrapes and cuts, you may want to use a topical antibiotic ointment that contains a mild ingredient to relieve pain.
Small injuries, cuts, and bruises are bound to happen to all kids. Although these injuries may be a part of growing up, you can take precautions to help prevent more serious mishaps. To avoid injuries, the AAP recommends the following:
Children should wear correct and properly fitted protective equipment. These include neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, and shin pads. They also include helmets, mouthpieces, faceguards, protective cups, and eyewear.
Condition and strengthen muscles before play.
Stretch before and after play to increase flexibility.
Include rest periods during play to prevent illness related to the heart and reduce injury.
Stop the activity if injury or pain occurs.
Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise or play.
Postpone or stop activities that are high intensity during periods of high heat or humidity.
Wear clothing that is right for the weather.
It's also a good idea to keep a first aid kit on hand, just in case an accident occurs.
More serious injuries
Call your child's healthcare provider, or seek medical care right away for any of the following:
A wound that does not stop bleeding after several minutes of pressure
A cut that has ragged edges, has skin edges that are far apart, or is especially long or deep
Redness, bruising, pus, drainage, or swelling that has increased
The injured area feels numb
A popping sound occurs during the injury. This can mean completely torn ligaments.
An injured body part that is oddly bent or misshapen
Any major injury involving the head or face
Complaints of increasing pain or difficulty breathing