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Pediatrics at HSS

What to do if Your Child Gets Hurt - logo image

What to do if Your Child Gets Hurt

girl with injury is being tended to by mother

Healthy, active children love to run, jump and play, and of course, exercise promotes good health. Injuries do happen, though, no matter how hard parents try to protect their youngsters.

Injury during Everyday Play

While everyday bumps, bruises and scrapes are common, sometimes an accident such as a fall causes something more serious. An injury to a child’s upper limb (shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, hand) or lower limb (hip, knee, lower leg, ankle, foot), is fairly common.

Dr. Shevaun Doyle, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS, offers the following tips if a child gets hurt:

  • Remain calm and comfort the child.
  • Limit movement of the injured body part. For example, you can rest it on a pillow.
  • Elevate an injury above the level of the heart. If it’s a wrist injury, for instance, the child can put his wrist across his body when lying down or prop it up on a few pillows.
  • Apply ice periodically over the first 48 hours. Use an ice pack for about 20 minutes three or four times a day. Do not put ice directly on the skin. Use a thin towel or cloth between the skin and the ice pack.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain medication such as children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

Dr. Doyle says signs of a serious injury that warrant a visit to a doctor or emergency room include:

  • A sudden injury that causes severe pain. If you suspect a fracture, obtain prompt medical attention.
  • The inability to move or put pressure on an arm or leg.
  • A limb that looks deformed compared to the other side.
  • Excessive swelling or bleeding.
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes of the injured limb.
  • Discoloration of the toes or fingers, as this could indicate a vascular injury (injury to arteries supplying blood to the extremity).
  • Pain that is still present after a couple of days, even though the child has been resting and taking over-the-counter pain medication. 

Injury while Playing a Sport

Each  year  more  than  3.5  million  children  ages  14 and  under  are  treated  for  sports  related  injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The increasing popularity of team sports at a young age may be contributing to an increase in injuries, says Dr. David Scher, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS.

He says it’s important for sports injuries to be promptly evaluated and treated. A severe injury may not only end a young athlete’s career, but can cause ongoing pain and disability. Minor injuries should also be assessed so they can be managed quickly and do not progress to more severe injuries.

He says it’s important for parents to bring an injured athlete to the emergency room if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • Significant  bleeding 
  • Possible dislocation 
  • Visible  deformity 
  • Uncontrollable pain 
  • Inability to bear  weight 

Sports Injury Prevention

To prevent injury, Dr. Scher says young athletes should stop playing a sport if they experience excessive fatigue, pain, swelling, or have a recurring injury. Since young people tend to get caught up in the excitement of their sport, parents and coaches should pull the player out of the game if they notice he or she is lagging or showing signs of possible injury.

Dr. Scher adds that adequate conditioning, sports-specific training, proper warm-up and stretching, a nutritious diet, sufficient hydration while playing, adequate rest and an educated coaching staff can help keep kids safe on the field.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Hospital for Special Surgery specialize in treating children with muscle, bone and joint injuries. The HSS Pediatric Fracture and Injury Hotline (1-877-HSS-1KID or 1-877-477-1543) is available 24 hours a day. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon and other staff members are available to provide care in the event a child or teen has a serious injury.