Parentingtips : What To Do When Your Child Has A Broken Bone

Tips, advice and instructions on what to do when a child has a broken bone - how to help, encourage and make him or her comfortable.

Thousands of kids break bones every year, but as a parent, you'd give anything to trade places with your child when this happens to your own. You can't do that, but you can make your child as comfortable as possible. After the trip to the doctor or emergency room, your child has probably been given pain medication and has been cast. The first order of business is to get the child home - safe and comfortable.

The medication will probably help the child to sleep, but maybe not throughout the night. The physician might have prescribed additional medication to take for the next few days, for pain, and it's important to see that the child take the medication on time, even if you must wake the child to do so. Keeping the appropriate level of medication in the child's system will prevent them from crying later in agony.

If the break is in a manner that the swelling will have to go down before the bone can be set, the doctor might have to send the child home without a cast for a few days, then the child will later have to be returned to the clinic to have the arm set. This is the worst type of break, since the slightest jostling of the arm or leg is agony for the child, and transporting them can be a real ordeal. After the bone is set, the child will be in pain for a few days, but will be feeling somewhat better, at least physically, within a week or so.


Whether the bone is set or not, prop the child up in bed or on the sofa, using pillows to make the cast area or broken bone as comfortable as possible. If it's a leg, prop pillows from behind the knee, down to the foot, for the leg to rest. For an arm, stack a couple of pillows next to the cast arm for propping. Propping the arm or leg will prevent swelling and make the child more comfortable. If the bone hasn't been set, prop pillows to the inside and outside of the broken bone as well, to prevent accidental bumping. An intercom system, or even a bell is helpful in case the child needs help in the middle of the night.

Depending upon the age of the child and the severity of the break, it could take from 3 to 8 weeks or longer for the break to heal properly. If the child is attending school, arrangements might have to be made for the child to work at home for a week or two. For breaks that can't be cast, like a horizontal break high on the arm, the physician will often strap the arm to the chest with a wrap-around, velcro-type device which holds the arm in place. In this case, the doctor might recommend that the child stay home from school until the arm is healed completely. Breaks that can't be set are a high risk if someone bumps the child.

The first time the child uses crutches, it will be difficult and he will need help. He might get frustrated or upset, but encourage him to keep trying. Help him, but have him still use the crutches, while you assist him in any way possible. If the child is pre-teen, he might need help in the bathroom, but be a little embarrassed. Try to appear nonchalant about helping him in the bathroom, give him as much privacy as possible, and soon he will be able to manage by himself.

Bath time can be a challenge, since the cast cannot get wet. Draw string trash bags are one way to cover the cast while bathing. Cut a hole in the bottom of the bag, slip the arm in the bag, with the hand passing through the hole. Tuck the bag into the cast, at the wrist, then tape. Do the same to the top portion of the cast. For a broken leg, the same can be done, but a shower with a removable head is the best bet. Without one, you can help lower the person into the tub, with the sore leg staying out of the water and up on the rim. This is hard if it's a small child. You might have to give them a sink bath for a few weeks or let them sit on a stool in the tub while you assist. For an older child, let them have a sheet or large towel to use as a cover while you help them in and out of the shower, or help them dress and undress.

For the first few days, the child might be content to watch tv, listen to music, take medication and sleep, but after a couple of days, the child will not only be bored, the cast area will also begin to itch. A chopstick works for a broken arm, usually, but many people use a hanger for a broken arm. Unwind the hanger hook, bend the hook over and squeeze it so that you have a flat loop at the end. Tape the hanger end to the hanger wire so there is no chance for the child to get hurt. The hanger can be snipped or folded to the appropriate size. Slip the hanger into the cast and move up and down to scratch.

Have plenty of books, crayons, crafts and movies for the child. As soon as possible, when the injury is beginning to heal, encourage the child to get up and move around the house. Arm injuries aren't so bad - a couple of days on the couch and the child is usually good to go, but if a child has crutches, it can take some getting used to, not to mention the sore hands and armpits. Let your child progress and heal at his own speed, but the child shouldn't still be on the couch, ringing his bell,having you jump to his every command, 4 weeks later.

When it comes time to get rid of the cast, there is no pain involved in the actual removal, but the arm or leg will be stiff and sore for a couple of weeks or longer. The child can go about his previous normal activities, but should avoid being bumped or hit in that area for several more weeks.

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