My child has a fracture. Now what?

A fracture is a broken bone. There are many types of fractures. Simple fractures are common in children and can be treated without surgery. Sometimes surgery is needed to treat complicated fractures. 

Symptoms
If your child has a broken bone, that area of their body will hurt. It might also become swollen, red, or bruised. Sometimes that part of the body might look out of place or you might see part of the bone pushing on or sticking out of the skin. 
 

If you think your child has a broken bone, take them to the nearest emergency health care centre. You can give your child ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help manage their pain before you get medical help.

Diagnosis

X-rays are usually taken to see if a child has a broken bone. An x-ray is a type of medical image that helps health experts to see the bones inside your body. 

Casts

If your child has a simple fracture, they will usually be fitted with a cast or splint. There are a few different types of casts, but they all have something in common: they need to stay dry. Plaster casts can’t be taken off, so you will need to help your child cover it with a plastic bag or silicone cast cover to keep it dry in the shower or bath tub. 

Follow-up

The doctor will let you know when and who to see for a follow-up appointment. At the appointment, they will check how your child’s fracture is healing. This will let you know how much longer your child will need a cast for. Most fractures heal without any complications. The next two sections describe when you should get emergency care for your child and when they should see a doctor.

Get emergency care
immediately if:
  • Your child’s fingers or toes turn blue or pale, tingle, burn, or are numb or cold
  • Your child has severe pain that is getting worse or does not go away after taking pain medicine
  • Your child develops a fever
Visit a doctor if:
  • something gets stuck in your child’s cast
  • the cast gets damaged
  • there is a bad smell coming from the cast
  • the cast feels loose and you can move the part of your body under the cast 
  • the part of your child’s body in a cast swells or the cast feels tighter 
  • you see skin changes such as rashes, breaks, sores or blisters coming out from the edges of the cast. 
Recovery

When a bone is broken, the first 3 days are usually the worst for pain. Then the pain slowly goes away by the end of one week for most people. It might be hard for your child to sleep through the night for the first few days, if they are in pain or uncomfortable in their cast. Remember to give your child pain medication when they need it, and help them to ice and raise their broken bone when they are resting.

There are many safe activities your child can participate in when they have a broken bone. Ask your doctor which of your child’s usual activities they can still do, and which should be paused while they are healing.

Recovery Tips
Bathing and showering take longer with a cast on, and your child might need help the first few times. Waterproof tape and silicone cast covers can help keep the cast dry and give your child some independence when taking a bath or shower. As you and your child get used to waterproofing the cast, bathing and showering will become easier and your child will become more independent.
Skin can get really itchy when a cast is on. Do not poke anything into the cast as this might break the skin and cause an infection. Use an ice bag over the cast to help with itchy feelings.
Use pillows when sitting and lying down to help raise the cast. If your child has a fracture on their arm, a sling might help hold the arm in place.
It’s normal for your child to be more upset or moody when they are in pain. Use ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) when needed to help manage the pain. Always follow the instructions on the bottle. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or if the medication is not helping to relieve your child’s pain.
It’s normal to feel frustrated when routines and schedules are disrupted and your child loses some of their independence. Give your child extra time to do things by themselves, like getting dressed or brushing their teeth.
Finding distractions like playing games or talking with friends can also help manage your child’s pain and help with their recovery.
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This infographic was brought to you by ECHO & ARCHE

 

This research was funded by the Stollery Science Lab Distinguished Researchers program through the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. 

 

© ECHO Research and ARCHE, 2022. This resource may not be modified, reproduced or distributed without prior written consent of ECHO Research and ARCHE. Contact shannon.scott@ualberta.ca

The information contained in this video/multimedia content (the “Multimedia”) is provided on an “as is” basis and is offered for general information and educational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute professional advice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the information found in the Multimedia. This information is provided without warranty of any kind, and the University of Alberta, its agents, employees, and students disclaim responsibility to any party for any loss or damage of any kind that may arise directly or indirectly as a result of the use of or reliance on the information contained in the Multimedia.

Physical treatments can include physiotherapy, prescribed exercise plans, strengthening exercises, massage, and more. 

Psychological treatments can include counselling or talk therapy, supportive therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, mediation, and more. They can be provided on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting. 

Disclaimer

The information contained in the video/multimedia content (the “Multimedia”) is provided on an “as is” basis and is offered for general information and educational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute professional advice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the information found in the Multimedia. This information is provided without warranty of any kind, and the University of Alberta, its agents, employees, and students disclaim responsibility to any party for any loss or damage of any kind that may arise directly or indirectly as a result of the use of or reliance on the information contained in the Multimedia.

These resources may not be modified, reproduced or distributed without prior written consent of ECHO Research. Contact shannon.scott@ualberta.ca.