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Many children break a bone during childhood – they fall off the swings, they try to fly off the roof, they crash their bikes – and, although they heal uneventfully in most cases, the situation can be scary for parent and child alike.





Symptoms of a broken bone 

Other than a compound fracture, it’s not always obvious to the naked eye that a bone has been broken. Most childhood breaks are to the wrists, forearms or just above the elbow, but occasionally a leg will be broken. Signs that the bone is broken include:

  • Hearing an audible snap during the injury
  • Swelling, bruising and pain
  • Painful to move and touch, cannot bear weight on it
  • The limb looks deformed or abnormal

If in doubt, assume the bone is broken. If there is any chance a child has injured the head, neck or spine, do not move the child and call for an ambulance immediately.


First aid 

Try to keep the broken limb from moving around- support it with pillows, or try to construct a simple splint with a board and some tape. An ice pack can be applied to the limb. Some children will go into shock and/or faint after breaking a bone. If the child is cold or clammy from shock, wrap the child up in a blanket. Do not allow the child to eat or drink anything. Take the child to the nearest emergency room. At the emergency room, the injured limb(s) will be x-rayed to determine if the bone is actually broken, and how severe the injury is.

Types of broken bones
There are many ways to break a bone. Some words the doctor might use to describe the break include:

  • Bowing fracture– bone bent badly but didn’t break
  • Greenstick fracture– cracked on one side only
  • Complete fracture– broken all the way through
  • Displaced complete fracture– broken ends moved away from each other
  • Comminuted fracture– bone smashed or crushed
  • Compound fracture– broken bone sticking out through the skin



Simple fractures

Simple fractures will be set and put in a splint or cast and then the child will be sent home. The emergency room staff should offer pain medication- if they do not, ask for it. Often intranasal fentanyl is given to children for pain relief.

0068113169937_500X500At home, ibuprofen is an excellent pain reliever for children with orthopedic injuries, but be sure to ask the doctor about dosages and schedules before administering any medicine


Paediatric orthopaedist

More complicated fractures may require surgery to place pins or screws to help hold the bone in place for healing, and if this is the case the child will be admitted to hospital until the surgery can be performed. A paediatric orthopaedics specialist will be consulted about the best way to repair complicated fractures.




Check that the child’s fingers or toes aren’t swelling up, turning blue or going numb from pressure from the cast- if they are, call the doctor immediately. Any pain should go away within a day or two; if does not, consult the doctor. Once the bone is healed, the doctor will remove the cast. If pins or screws were placed, the orthopaedic specialist may remove those as well. After cast removal, some type of physical therapy to rebuild strength in the limb may be suggested.

Children heal very quickly- young children can heal a broken bone in as few as 3 weeks. Adolescents or more severe breaks may require 6 weeks for healing.



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