Is it a fracture? Broken Bones on Vacation, here’s what you need to know

    The Christmas season is a time when many families travel and resume outdoor activities. While expecting some quality family fun time, sometimes things don’t go as planned and accidents may happen. For some minor injuries, first-aid treatment can be provided. But what about more serious injuries such as fractures? What do you do when your child breaks a bone?

    What is a fracture?

    A fracture is a break in the bone that can be either displaced (out of alignment) or non-displaced. Although there are many causes of fractures, the most common one is an accident or a fall. Other causes in children can be from a direct blow, such as a car accident or being hit, or medical conditions that cause bones to be weak.

    Dr. KL Liu, an orthopaedic specialist focused on the care of children, says that the majority of fractures in children occur in the upper limbs. The most common injury is a fracture of the wrist caused by falling onto the outstretched hand. The second is a fracture of the elbow whilst the third is of the forearm. The fourth most common fracture is in the leg (shin) bone.

    What to look out for

    Common signs and symptoms of fractures:

    • pain, swelling, and bruising around the fracture site
    • inability to move the limb or joint
    • deformity of the limb or joint
    • numbness or tingling in the injured area
    • feeling of instability or “giving way” at the fracture site

    What to do

    Being away from home can add a lot of stress to the situation but the most important thing to do is to stay calm, and if you suspect that your child has a fracture, seek medical treatment right away. Fractures can often be treated without surgery but it’s important to have them assessed by a doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

    This is what you can do until you get medical help:

    • Try not to move the injured arm or leg
    • Gently take clothing off the injured area. If this is very painful for your child, use scissors to cut off the clothing
    • Keep the injured limb in the position you find it
    • If you have one or can make one, put a simple splint on the broken area to hold the bone still. This protects it until the child is seen by a doctor. To make a splint, you can use a small board or folded up newspapers. Wrap it with a bandage or tape
    • Don’t let your child eat or drink in case they need surgery

    If you suspect a serious injury to the head, neck, or back, or if a bone comes through the skin, call emergency services. Likewise, keep your child lying down and do not wash or touch the part sticking out.

    Treatment of a fracture

    If the fracture is not displaced, it may be treated without surgery after adequate immobilization. However, if your child is experiencing a lot of pain or if the injury is not improving after a few days, it’s best to seek medical treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon.

    If the fracture is displaced, the bone will need to be reset into place. This will require a trip to the hospital where an orthopaedic surgeon will perform the necessary procedure. Once the bone has been reset, your child will need to wear a cast for several weeks to allow the fracture to heal properly.

    ‘No matter what type of fracture, the key is early accurate diagnosis and provision of proper treatment.’ Dr. Liu says. ‘When the injuries are neglected or not managed properly, more complicated treatments such as open surgeries might be necessary, with possible long term effects on the child’s growth and development.’

    Dr. Liu emphasizes the importance of seeking medical treatment right away. Listen to what the medical professional in the country advises and get first-line treatment to prevent the situation from getting worse. If you are covered by medical insurance, it will be wise to check against your coverage and see if you can get any support from the insurance team.

    Sometimes an x-ray or imaging will be done for your child, in such cases, you can obtain a report and send it to your doctor in your home country for a second opinion, or contact the Matilda Orthopaedic and Spine Centre and get some advice from their team.

    It is always good to have a specialist appointment booked immediately upon your return trip and keep in close communication with your doctor at home.

    Don’t know who to call?

    Matilda Orthopaedic and Spine Centre provides a one-stop service from finding the right specialist to facilitating all the arrangements. Contact 5501 6699 or [email protected] to arrange a specialist appointment.

    Think Prevention!

    Not every fracture can be prevented. But you can make a break less likely. Follow these tips:

    • Children need to build strong bones, you can help by making sure they get enough calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity.
    • Provide children a helmet and safety equipment when cycling, playing on skateboards and rollerblades as well as for sporting activities.
    • Beware of stairs in places you are staying when away, most places won’t have safety gates installed.

    First aid courses

    The Matilda International Hospital provides first aid courses to prepare parents and domestic helpers to respond in an emergency situation, check out the website for details.

    *This article was sponsored by Matilda International Hospital

    You might also be interested in:

    Growing Pains in Children

    Kids Sports Injuries: How to Help

    How Much Sport is Too Much?

    A Guide to First Aid for Children’s Parties 



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