There are probably few things more important to you than your child's health and well-being. But even though you may try your best to keep your child healthy and safe, it is not always easy to know exactly what to do, especially when your child is injured. Children's work is their play. Play includes many fun types of activities that also put them at risk for injury, such as running, climbing, swimming, biking, and sports. Minor accidents and injuries are part of childhood and growing up.
For parents and caregivers, knowing what to do when minor injuries occur is an important part of caring for a child. To help avoid many common childhood injuries, parents and caregivers should consider learning how to care for injuries; tell the difference between a minor problem and a true emergency and respond accordingly; learn what to keep in a first-aid kit; and complete a checklist and phone contact list for when emergencies occur.
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Minor Injury vs. Emergency
Many minor injuries can be handled at home. However, there are times when a trip to the hospital emergency department is needed. In general, take your child to an emergency room after an injury anytime you think the problem may need urgent attention, including if your child has:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Bloody sputum (coughing up blood)
- Blue or purple color to lips, skin, or nail beds
- Chest or stomach pain or pressure
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
- Change in mental status (such as loss of consciousness, confusion, or trouble waking)
- Animal, snake, or human bites
- Severe pain or loss of motion or sensation anywhere in the body
- Severe bleeding or bleeding that does not stop with direct pressure
- Severe burns or burns of the face
- Broken bones
- Puncture wounds
- Head, spinal cord, or eye injuries
- Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, swelling of the face, lips, eyes, or tongue, fainting, or with trouble breathing, swallowing, or wheezing
This is a partial list. There are other problems that may require emergency care. Contact your child's doctor for more information. When in doubt, seek emergency medical attention.
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Cuts, Scrapes & Skin Wounds
Children's days are filled with running, jumping, bicycling, sports, and other fun activities that keep them active and "on-the-go" from morning until night. Along with the fun comes an occasional cut, bruise, or tumble. Luckily, most of these injuries are not serious and can be handled with some simple first-aid interventions at home. However, there are times when a doctor's care is needed.
Specific treatment for skin wounds and injuries will be determined by your child's doctor. In general, call your child's doctor for skin injuries that are:
- Bleeding heavily and do not stop after five to 10 minutes of direct pressure
- Deep or longer than 1/2 inch
- Located close to the eye
- Large cuts on the face
- Caused by a puncture wound or dirty or rusty object
- Embedded with debris such as dirt, stones, or gravel
- Ragged or have separated edges
- Caused by an animal or human bite
- Excessively painful
- Showing signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or drainage
- Your child has not had a tetanus vaccination within the past five years, or if you are unsure when your child's last tetanus shot was given.
- You are concerned about the wound or have any questions.
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Muscle & Joint Injuries
Children often injure muscles and joints while running, playing, climbing, or during sports activities. A sprain occurs when ligaments, the bands of tissue that hold bones together, are stretched or torn. A strain occurs when the muscle-tendon unit is overstretched or torn. Tendons help hold muscles and bones together. Sprains and strains can cause pain, swelling, and sometimes result in inability to move the joint. Ankle sprains are the most common type of sports injury. Many times minor sprains and strains can be treated at home. At other times, a proper medical evaluation and treatment is needed.
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Children are naturally inquisitive and love to explore their world. Infants tend to put everything in their mouths and toddlers grab whatever looks interesting. Adolescents may experiment with drugs and other mind-altering substances. Consider these facts about poisonings in the United States:
- Each year, poison control centers receive more than 1.1 million calls about accidental poisonings among children ages 5 and under.
- Calls to poison control centers peak between 4 pm and 10 pm.
- Only 30 percent of caregivers are able to accurately measure a correct dosage of over-the-counter medications to their children.
- More than 90 percent of poisonings in children occur in the home.
- In children, approximately 60 percent of poisonings involve products other than medicines, such as plants, cleaning products, cosmetics, pesticides, paints, and solvents; 40 percent of poisonings involve medications.
The good news is that prompt treatment can prevent most serious reactions. And, of course, poison prevention is always the best cure. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency by posting the poison center telephone number by every phone in your home. The national, toll-free poison control center locator number is (800) 222-1222. From here, you will be automatically redirected to the nearest Poison Center in your area. If you have a poisoning emergency, call your local poison center immediately. If the child has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911, or your local emergency medical services (EMS).
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