Sometimes just kissing a boo-boo will not do.As parents we want our children to have fun and explore all that life has to offer. But along with their exciting experiences comes the inevitable injury. Here’s how to tell if “kissing it better” will suffice, or if an injury requires a higher level of first aid.
Head Injuries From Sports
Most children will sustain some form of head injury, especially if they’re involved in sports such as football, baseball, basketball, skateboarding and cycling. Fortunately, many head injuries are mild and result in only a small bump or abrasion. In this instance, cleansing gently with soap and water, applying an antibiotic ointment and a plastic bandage if necessary, and using an ice pack and/or ibuprofen for mild discomfort should be sufficient.
However, if your child sustains a large, open wound to the head, apply direct pressure to the wound and seek medical attention immediately.
You will also need to monitor him for any signs of a concussion. Your child does not need to lose consciousness to have a concussion. If he gets knocked out or exhibits signs of dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, double vision, vomiting (more than twice), a persistent/worsening headache, lethargy, weakness or behavioral changes, or if he cries for more than ten minutes, go to the emergency department (ER) or call your health care provider immediately. If your child is knocked out for more than a minute, is not moving his head or neck normally, has had a seizure or appears to be worsening, call 911. Do not attempt to move him unless it is absolutely necessary.
You should never ignore a sports-related head injury, no matter how minor it seems. Your child may says he’s fine, but if he’s showing symptoms of a more significant head injury, don’t allow him to return to play until he’s cleared by a health care professional. Remember: “When in doubt, sit him out!”
Knocked-Out (Avulsed) Tooth
If your child accidentally knocks out a permanent tooth, the sooner it can be put back into the socket, the better. (Keep in mind that a tooth should be placed back in the socket of developmentally and age-appropriate children only.) Gently rinse the tooth with saliva or water (do not scrub). Position the tooth correctly in the socket, and press down gently with your thumb until the crown is level with the adjacent teeth. Have your child bite down on a wad of gauze to help keep the tooth in place, and go to your dentist or to the ER immediately.
If you can’t get the tooth back in its socket, place it in either milk or saliva and go to the dentist or ER immediately. You should also call the dentist if a permanent tooth is knocked loose, a baby tooth is traumatically knocked out, a tooth is severely displaced from its normal position, there is a chip or crack in the tooth, your child has severe pain or sensitivity, the tooth becomes darker in color, or bleeding won’t stop after ten minutes of direct pressure.
Dog and Cat Bites
Even our beloved pets can bite. But whether an animal is known or not, it’s important to take the appropriate action following a bite. If the bite is from an unknown animal, note the location of the animal and contact your local Animal Care & Control.
If the bite doesn’t break the skin, wash the site with soap and warm water, and apply an antibiotic ointment. If the area begins to look red, swollen, tender or if it’s hot to the touch, you should seek medical attention immediately.
If the bite breaks the skin, apply firm, direct pressure to the wound for five minutes or until the bleeding stops. Gently cleanse the wound with soap and water and contact your health care provider. If the wound is deep and/ or you are unable to stop the bleeding, continue to hold direct pressure on the wound and seek medical attention immediately.
Some animal bites require antibiotics to prevent infection. Your child may also need a tetanus booster. If she is bitten on the face, neck, hand, foot or genitals, contact your health care provider immediately, as these sites are more prone to infection.
Outdoor play and sports are natural and should be encouraged, but it’s important to use caution when the temperature and/or humidity rise to an unsafe level. Kids tend to perspire less than adults, making frequent hydration and cooling breaks necessary to prevent dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can lead to vascular collapse, coma and even death.
If your child has signs of a heat-related injury such as leg cramps, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, pale and moist or hot and dry skin, disorientation or fainting, remove him from the activity and give him plenty of fluids in small, frequent amounts. Move to a shaded or air-conditioned area and have him sit or lie down. Remove excess clothing and fan or apply cool compresses/ice packs to his body. If the symptoms do not improve quickly, take him to the ER immediately. If he is unable to tolerate fluids, is unresponsive, begins having seizures or is showing other signs of more serious injury, call 911.
Children tend to stay outdoors in the cold and snow, even if they aren’t appropriately dressed for the frigid temperatures. When the temperature drops and/or your kids are playing outdoors for prolonged periods, they should dress in layers and wear protective gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, boots, coats and other winter clothing to help insulate them against injury from the cold.
Hypothermia is a significant, life-threatening, cold-related injury. If your child shivers, becomes clumsy or lethargic, develops slurred speech or has a decreased body temperature, call 911. While waiting for help, remove all wet clothing and wrap your child in warm clothes or blankets. If you are in a remote area with no warm clothing or blankets, use your own body heat to help warm your child until help arrives.
We can’t protect our kids from every injury, but by knowing how to react to more serious injuries, we can protect kids from further complications and harm.
Sheri M. Carson, MSN, RN, CPNP, is a civilian-contracted PNP at Davis- Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. She provides primary health care services to the children (newborn through adolescence) of the active duty and retired military personnel.