Cuts, strains, sprains and fractures are a common, and sometimes scary, occurrence in childhood. Everyone should keep a first-aid kit handy, but your most important tool is knowing how to take care of these injuries.
Using the following guidelines will help you confidently treat your child when the injury takes more than the healing power of a hug and kiss.
Minor cuts, also called lacerations, usually stop bleeding after a few minutes. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If necessary, apply a sterile bandage as soon as possible.
More serious cuts cause heavy bleeding, which must be controlled immediately. Apply firm, direct pressure over the entire area of the wound for at least 10 minutes with a thick pad of sterile gauze or a clean cloth. Elevate the area that is bleeding (raise above heart level) while you continue to apply pressure — unless there is a chance that the bone is broken. If you release pressure or the child squirms away, start timing again at zero for a full 10 minutes. You may need to continue applying pressure until you see the physician. Don’t use iodine or antiseptics before the physician examines the area.
A severe cut may have damaged blood vessels, nerves or tendons underneath the skin. Call your child’s physician right away if the cut:
SPRAINS AND STRAINS
A sprain is a pulling or tearing of a ligament, the thick tissue that connects bones and joints. Symptoms include pain, swelling, joint instability and sometimes bruising. A strain is the pulling or tearing of a muscle that has been overstretched or overused.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell a severe sprain from a broken or fractured bone. Since both are serious injuries, always seek medical help, and treat it as if it were a fracture (as below).
The treatment of strains and sprains is fairly simple, but takes time. Returning to normal activity too soon can lengthen healing time. Sustaining a second injury to the same area within six weeks can extend the healing time.
The first six to 48 hours after a sprain are the most critical. Just remember PRICE:
Your doctor may recommend medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®), to help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s important to take medications only as directed. If pain lasts more than three or four days, the injury should be evaluated by a doctor. Never give aspirin unless specifically instructed to do so by your doctor.
Pain, tenderness, swelling, deformity and the inability to use the injured area are symptoms of fractured or broken bones. All fractures or suspected fractures require immediate medical attention.
If you suspect a fracture:
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