Types of fracture

Children can get several types of fracture. These include the following:

  • Greenstick fracture: this is when a bone is bent rather than broken. Greenstick fractures are common in young children, whose bones are softer than adults’ bones.
  • Undisplaced fracture: this is when the bone is cracked, but still in the correct position.
  • Open or compound fracture: this is when one end of the broken bone pokes through the skin. It could easily get infected.

Fracture symptoms

The area around the fracture is painful and usually gets swollen. Sometimes you can see an obvious lump, or your child’s arm or leg won’t look normal.

Your child might hold his arm or leg perfectly still because even the slightest movement increases the pain.

If you think your child has any of the symptoms of a fracture, you should see your GP or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Tests for fracture

Doctors will always confirm that your child has a fracture by doing an X-ray. If there’s any doubt, a doctor might send your child for other tests, such as a CT scan or nuclear bone scan.

Treatment

If you think your child has a fracture, splint it by resting it on something solid and see your doctor. Avoid giving your child food or drink until you’ve seen the doctor, in case he needs an operation. Your child might also need pain relief like paracetamol.

Most fractured limbs need to be splinted or put into a plaster cast. This lets the bones knit back together and mend without being disturbed by too much movement.

The healing time depends on the type of fracture and how bad the fracture is. Generally, though, children’s bones mend quickly, usually without any complications.

If your child has a fracture of the skull, she’ll need careful medical attention because of the delicate underlying brain tissue.

Encourage your child to use the affected limb after the cast comes off – this is the best physiotherapy.

Caring for a fracture in a cast

After your child has a plaster cast put on, he needs to take care to ensure that there are no complications.

Here’s what to do:

  • Keep your child’s limb elevated to decrease swelling. This means keeping the arm in a sling, or resting the leg on a stool or pillow while lying down. Keep elevated for 48 hours – this is how long it takes for the plaster to dry completely.
  • Encourage your child to wiggle the fingers or toes of the affected limb.
  • Go back to see your doctor the following day for a check of the plaster cast. This is very important – it ensures that swelling hasn’t made the plaster too tight overnight.
  • If your child is itchy under the plaster cast, don’t poke anything – for example, a knitting needle – into the cast. This might lead to an increased risk of infection.
  • Don’t get the plaster cast wet. Use a plastic bag over the area and seal with tape when your child has a bath.