When Your Child Breaks Their Wrist: A Guide for Parents

Young girl patient with a broken wrist talking with male doctor in children's ward
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When Your Child Breaks Their Wrist: A Guide for Parents

As any parent knows, children are constantly exploring their world and testing their limits. And while this curiosity is essential for their development, it can also lead to accidents. One of the most common playground injuries is a broken arm or wrist, which often happens when kids fall off of monkey bars or fall with outstretched hands.

While a broken bone in your child is certainly not something you want to think about, it's important to be prepared in case it does happen. So what should you do if your child breaks their wrist? This blog post will discuss the steps you should take when your child breaks their wrist. We will also provide some tips for making the healing process easier for them.

What to Do Right Away

One of your worst fears as a parent is probably seeing your child hurt. And when you suspect your child has broken a bone, it can be a traumatizing experience for both of you. But once the initial shock has worn off, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. 

First, try to stay calm. Your child will likely feel a lot of pain and may be scared, so it's important to reassure them that everything will be okay. Once you've calmed down, you'll need to assess the situation and determine whether or not you need to take your child to the hospital.

If the bone is protruding from the skin, keep the child still and apply pressure to the area with a clean gauze pad or cloth to stop the bleeding. If you can't see the bone, gently remove any clothing around the injury, and don't try to move the limb. Then, get your child to the hospital so that they can receive treatment.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Wrist Fracture?

Boy basketball player visiting doctor for wrist pain
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A wrist fracture is a break in one of the bones in the wrist. It can result from a fall, a direct blow to the wrist, or other trauma to the area. Wrist fractures are especially common in children, who have smaller and less dense bones than adults.

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your child, seek medical attention right away:

Pain: is one of the most common symptoms of a wrist fracture. Your child may complain of pain when they move their arm or hand, attempt to lift something, or put pressure on the affected limb. The pain may be constant or intermittent, and it may radiate up the arm or down into the hand. 

Bruising: is often one of the first signs, appearing as a black-and-blue mark on the skin. This is caused by bleeding under the skin, which can happen when blood vessels are damaged.

Swelling: may also appear soon after the injury, as fluid leaks out of the damaged blood vessels. The affected area may feel warm to the touch and be very tender.

Deformity: you may also see a deformity in the wrist, such as a bulge or depression. In some cases, the bone may even penetrate the skin. 

Snapping noise: your child may hear a snapping noise at the time of the injury.

Numbness or tingling: may also be experienced if there is nerve damage near the break.

A wrist fracture can lead to chronic pain and stiffness if left untreated. In severe cases, it may also cause permanent damage to the nerves or blood vessels in the area. If you suspect that your child has a wrist fracture, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

How Are Wrist Fractures in Children Diagnosed?

A doctor will first take a medical history and ask about your child's symptoms to diagnose a wrist fracture. The doctor will then do a physical examination of the affected area. X-rays are usually used to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, additional imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, may also be ordered. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment can begin.

How Are Wrist Fractures in Children Treated?

boy with broken arm wrapped medical cast plaster in locker room talking with coach.
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As a parent, it’s natural to feel anxious when your child is injured. No one wants to see their child in pain. Understanding the treatment process can help to ease some of the anxiety. 

In most cases, an urgent care doctor or pediatrician will place a splint on the affected arm and then refer your child to an orthopedist, who will place a more permanent cast that will remain on the broken arm for four to eight weeks. The orthopedist will also schedule follow-up appointments to ensure the injury is healing properly.

If the bone is badly broken or out of alignment, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage and realign the bones. Additional treatment may be required if there are complications, such as an infection or alignment issues.  

After the cast is removed, physical therapy may be recommended to help restore range of motion and strength. Depending on the severity of the fracture, it may take several months for the wrist to fully heal. With proper treatment, most children make a full recovery from a wrist fracture and experience no long-term complications.

How Can I Manage My Child’s Symptoms?

It can be difficult to watch your child suffer from a broken wrist. And while the healing process can be painful, there are things you can do to help manage your child’s symptoms.

Keep the affected limb elevated. This will help to reduce swelling and pain. Ice can be applied to the area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. In addition to reducing swelling, ice can help the pain to subside. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen can be given as directed by your doctor to help manage pain. Monitor your child’s pain levels and consult with their doctor if the pain persists or gets worse.

You may also need to help your child with everyday tasks, such as bathing and dressing, since they will not be able to use their affected hand. Help your child to keep their spirits up. Reassure them they will heal and they can still enjoy their favorite activities once they have recovered. With your support, your child will be able to manage their wrist fracture symptoms and make a full recovery in seemingly no time.

How Long Does a Broken Wrist Take To Heal for a Child?

Depending on the severity of the break, a child's wrist may take anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal. This healing time can be even shorter if the break is a simple one, such as a hairline fracture. However, if the break is more complex, such as a comminuted fracture, it may take longer for the bone to heal properly. In addition to the type of break, the age of the child can also affect healing time. Younger children typically heal faster than older children or adults because of their natural growth hormones. No matter how long it takes for a child’s broken wrist to heal, parents can rest assured that, with the proper treatment, their little ones will return to their active selves. 

Elevate Your Child's Healing Experience With Cast21

Boy with broken wrist wearing waterproof cast

Children heal best when they're active, so the team at Cast21 created an orthopedic immobilization device designed to elevate the healing experience for both children and parents. The company uses innovative medical-grade materials and manufacturing techniques to create cast alternatives that are lightweight, comfortable, and breathable so your child can experience the benefits of active healing. And because they know that children are not always careful with their casts, they designed them to be waterproof, durable, and easy to clean. 

Cast21 orthopedic cast alternatives are available in various colors, so your child can choose a design they like. And because their immobilization devices are custom-fitted, they provide superior support and stability during the healing process. Learn more about Cast21 and how this system is changing the way doctors treat broken bones and beyond. 

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