Types of fractures
Children can get several types of fractures. 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 for healing.
- Open or compound fracture: this is where the bone ends don’t line up and one end of the broken bone pokes through the skin. This kind of fracture can easily get infected.
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.
Does your child need to see a doctor about a fracture?
Yes. If you think your child has any of the symptoms of a fracture, especially if your child has had a fall or a big bump, you should see your GP or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Tests for fractures
Treatment for fractures
If you think your child has a fracture, splint it by resting it on something solid and see a doctor. Avoid giving your child food or drink until you’ve seen the doctor, in case your child needs surgery. 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.
In some cases, your child might need surgery.
The healing time depends on the type of fracture and how bad the fracture is. Generally, though, children’s bones mend in around four weeks, 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.
Caring for a fracture in a cast
After your child has a plaster cast put on, you and he need 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 your doctor for a check the day after the cast goes on. 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.