Regular readers of my blog would probably know that Little Man had fractured his elbow late last year (on the first day of half-term, as luck would have it! You can read all about it here). So he was in a plaster and sling for two weeks and then a fibreglass cast for another four weeks. As you can imagine, it was a long six weeks (and more, as his arm wasn't a 100 per cent till almost two weeks after everything was off), and while I was lucky he wasn't in pain, I still had to take extra care and do things differently. I learnt a lot about how to deal with plasters and slings and keeping them clean, and also how to get a child's broken arm functional again.
(Note: These tips are based on my personal experience; I am by no means an expert!!!)
It's essential to keep the plaster and cast clean and dry, but it's as important to keep your child clean too (though I'm sure most kids would gladly skip a bath for the whole six weeks!). While a tub-bath is possible with the aid of a waterproof cast protector (this brand is widely used by the NHS and was recommended to us as well by the A & E), the other option for a quick clean is a sponge bath or a quick wipe-down with wet-wipes. (This is another reason why wet-wipes are so versatile).
For a hair wash, make your child stand with his back to the washbasin, and tilt his head into the sink (like you would at the hairdressers). You could use a small stool to make it easier for them to reach the washbasin. Don't forget to cover the cast and the areas surrounding it with a thick towel so that water doesn't seep inside.
Powder the armpits and between the fingers daily, as those areas won't be washed properly – not only will this keep the areas fresh but also keep odours away.
It's extremely important to keep moving the arm, even when in a plaster, to keep the muscles from getting too limp and numb. Basic up-and-down or inside-out movements, as much as is comfortable for your child, once every hour or so should be good. Encourage them to move their fingers around too, as the pressure of the plaster combined with the lack of movement could make them numb.
Once the cast is off…
Don't expect a miracle immediately. Your child hasn't used his arm in over a month, so it is weak and limp and stiff. He/she will NOT be able to move it around instantly, but like me, don't panic. Just give it time, encourage them to move it as much as possible naturally and keep doing the basic exercises mentioned above.
Avoid contact sports and lifting heavy objects for around a month after the cast is off, but don't restrict basic movement. Let them use their hand to do daily tasks; the more it is used, the quicker it will regain its strength.
Swimming will help in loosening the stiffness (recommended by the doctor again); if that's not possible, let your child play around in the bathtub. It is easier for them to move their arm in water.
General care and other useful tips:
- Of course, you will have to take extra care with a child with a broken arm. Make sure there's no stuff (or toys) lying around the floor over which your child can slip and get hurt.
- Keep the bathroom floor dry at all times – again, to prevent slipping and falling.
- The A & E usually gives a triangular cloth which can be turned into a sling. However, for convenience (and looks, if it matters to your child), you do get strap-on slings on Amazon.
- When your child has a sling on, be extra cautious (especially with a smaller baby/ toddler) because of risk of choking if it gets caught in something.
- Dressing a child with a broken arm can be tricky, especially if it's winter and you've got to keep them covered. Buy t-shirts/ shirts/ sweatshirts in a size or two bigger so that it can go over the broken arm and cover the stomach without putting undue pressure on the cast.
Do you have any other tips/ advice on caring for a child with a broken arm? Pop them below in the comments and share the knowledge…
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