Can Some Pediatric Orthopedic Injuries Be Handled at Home?
As the federal government, and more specifically the leadership in the state of California where Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute is located, continues to advise citizens stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, many parents of active children can attest, kids don’t need to leave the house to get hurt. In fact, many orthopedic injuries sustained by children each year happen in or around the family home.
During this time of physical distancing and efforts to avoid hospital emergency rooms unless essential treatment is needed, mom and/or dad may be wondering what types of orthopedic injuries can be safely and effectively tended to at home. In this new blog, I’ll share some important tips for ways you can evaluate your child’s injury and what to do when he or she does need to be seen by a medical professional.
First, let’s start with the relatively minor injury categories. Bumps and bruises, small abrasions, and mild sprains and strains can all be safely and effectively treated at home. The key here is to have a firm understanding of what is considered “mild.” To that end, it may be best to discuss what isn’t mild, and when that injury needs a further or more immediate look.
There are some distinct orthopedic injuries that parents should never attempt to treat at home or “wait out.” Injuries that render the child unable to walk or put weight on the affected limb require attention beyond your four walls. In these cases, children should be seen by their pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine specialist, if possible. A qualified pediatric medical professional should also evaluate any injury that results in a deformity. Depending on the severity, significant cuts, abrasions, and burns may need to more than at-home as well. Head injuries – where there is a loss of consciousness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, or any other disability associated with the injury – should be evaluated immediately via the emergency room. And parents, I always recommend erring on the side of caution for any injury. There is no substitute for peace of mind.
If you are concerned, call your pediatrician or take your child to the nearest urgent care or emergency room for evaluation. If you live in an area where a children’s hospital is available and offers emergency or urgent care services, do not hesitate to access their expert care. Not only are these institutions most equipped, skilled, and trained in caring for childhood injuries and conditions, they will also be less likely to be impacted by current COVID-19 cases.
Speaking of COVID-19, one trickier question I have been asked for advice on is what to do if a child is recovering at home from COVID-19, or is in quarantine because one of their family members has COVID-19, and suffers an injury that would typically require immediate medical attention? Should they still go to the ER? One of the more positive things that have come out of this pandemic is the rapid development and deployment of telemedicine or virtual office visits. Many physicians and practitioners are now available virtually by a phone call or video and can help triage pediatric injuries. If there is time, call ahead to the ER to get advice on urgent medical problems. True emergencies should still be expeditiously seen as they usually would have before this pandemic.
So, if your child’s injury passes as a “non-emergent” concern, what can you have on hand at home to be ready to help provide relief? Over the counter medications such as children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be helpful, but consult with your pediatrician for the appropriate dosage. Other medications, such as Benadryl, can also be extremely useful. If the child has a specific medical condition requiring medication, this should be on hand and readily accessible by their caretaker. Bandages of different shapes and sizes can also be especially useful for small cuts or abrasions. Hydrogen peroxide and saline can be used to keep cuts and scrapes clean and rubbing alcohol can be used to disinfect. Ice packs can help relieve pain after a minor sprain or strain and for bumps and bruises. Other essential components of an at-home first aid kit include adhesive tape, bandages, super glue, eye shields, cotton balls or swabs, scissors, hand sanitizer, scissors, and a thermometer. Parents can never be too prepared when it comes to their children.
As previously mentioned, but it bears repeating – if you are in any doubt about your child’s injury – call your doctor. If he or she is unable to see the child or you are concerned about waiting, go to the ER. Your local hospitals are still available and serving their communities so that your family can remain safe and healthy – even during a pandemic.