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Not Every Schoolyard Injury Requires a Trip to the Emergency Department

Not Every Schoolyard Injury Requires a Trip to the Emergency Department

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Recess in the schoolyard and playing team sports can sometimes lead to injury. But not every bump and scrape requires a trip to the emergency department.

“For minor lacerations, soap and water and supportive care is probably more than enough,” says Michael Guttenberg, DO, director of emergency medicine at Forest Hills Hospital.

In these instances, once you’ve made sure that your child’s tetanus (DTaP) shots are up-to-date, cool compresses and bacitracin ointment can be used as an at-home treatment.

Emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of ED visits for playground injuries than any other age group, with most of those injuries occurring at school.

“At the age of 5, the children are becoming a little more independent, they’re not watched as closely, they like to climb, and their balance is not where it should be and they tend to fall,” said Dr. Guttenberg. “Head, wrist and ankle injuries are very common in this age group.”

For orthopedic injuries, such as sprains and strains, Dr. Guttenberg recommends RICE. The acronym stands for:

            Rest – rest and protect the injured area.

            Ice – place a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes, three or more times a day to keep the swelling down.

            Compression – wrap the injury (but not excessively tight) to help reduce swelling.

            Elevate – keep the injured area elevated while applying the cold pack.

A trip to the emergency room is warranted if your child experiences injuries that are associated with loss of consciousness, persistent vomiting, lethargy, an obvious bone deformity, eye injuries (i.e., scratch to the cornea), puncture wounds or gaping wounds where bleeding can’t be controlled.

“If there’s ever a concern and for peace of mind they should be evaluated,” said Dr. Guttenberg.

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