How to Treat 10 Common Playground Injuries

From splinters to friction burns to black eyes
hurt little boy crying on playground

There’s no avoiding it. Kids play tough. Whether it’s the swing, the monkey bars or tumbling head first out of the twisty slide, eventually (sorry!) they get hurt.

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Here pediatrician William Mudd, DO, offers a first-aid guide for tending to those boo-boos — and explains when to seek medical attention for something more serious.

Cuts

For minor cuts, clean the area with water. Apply a band-aid until a scab forms. For deeper abrasions, rinse the wound with water and mild soap for 5 minutes. (Don’t use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which can slow healing). With gauze or clean cloth over the wound, apply pressure for at least 5 minutes. Elevate the area, if possible. Keep the wound moist with Aquaphor® /Eucerin® underneath the bandaging during the healing process to expedite healing. (Studies show covered wounds heal up to 40 times faster than when uncovered). And use topical Vitamin E to prevent scarring in areas of cosmetic concern.

Call for help if:

  • It bleeds longer than 10 minutes.
  • The cut is deep/large and may require stitches.
  • There’s debris in the wound.
  • You have other concerns.

Blisters

Don’t break or “pop” the blister. This can introduce infection into the wound. Gently wash the area with mild soap and water. Apply antibacterial ointment. Cover with gauze, secured with hypoallergenic tape to help protect the skin and prevent infection. Change the dressing at least once daily until it’s healed.

Split lip

Apply pressure for 10 minutes with a clean cloth to stop the split lip from bleeding. Wash the area to remove any dirt (but don’t scrub!) with water and mild soap.

Call your pediatrician if:

  • Bleeding doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure.
  • The cut is deep and may require stitches.
  • There’s embedded debris or was caused by a rusty object (especially if you don’t know if your child’s tetanus shot is up-to-date!)

Black eye

Use a cold compress for 10-20 minutes. Never place ice or cold directly on the eye or eyelid. Avoid using chemical packs. (They may leak and cause further damage.)

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Consult your pediatrician if you have concerns.

Friction burns

Treat these injuries (aka turf/rug burn or raspberries) by cleaning the skin with soap and water. Do NOT apply ice/ ice water. Carefully remove any debris with sterilized tweezers. Apply antiseptic and cover with a gauze pad, making sure the adhesive isn’t on the burned area. An age-appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen can ease your little one’s pain. Check healing daily.

Contact your pediatrician if you notice signs of infection (increased swelling, redness, pain or pus).

Broken bones

Is it broken? Signs include hearing a snap upon injury, swelling, bruising, being difficult or painful to move, or pain to the touch. Remove clothing from the area and apply an ice pack. Don’t move the limb. Use anything you can find as a make-shift splint.

Get medical care ASAP. Call 9-1-1 and don’t move your child for suspected severe injury to the head, back or neck or if the bone broke through the skin.

Splinter

Try removing a splinter using wrapping tape (simply apply and pull off!), tweezers or a needle (sterilized first). If successfully removed, clean the area with soap and water.

If you see signs of infection over the next few days (redness, warmth, pus), call your pediatrician. Also seek advice if you cannot remove the splinter yourself or it breaks off. As a general rule of thumb, don’t try for more than 5 minutes. Bring your child to their pediatrician at this point. This can help prevent your child from feeling anxiety and ultimately make removing the splinter easier in the office.

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Bloody nose

Sit your child down, leaning his body and head slightly forward (this keeps blood from running down the throat.) Using a tissue or damp washcloth, pinch together the soft part of his nose against the hard bony ridge that forms the nose’s bridge with your thumb and index finger. Wait 5 minutes before checking if bleeding has stopped. Continue another 10 minutes, if needed.

Seek medical help if bleeding continues after 15-20 minutes or your child loses more than a coffee cup’s worth of blood.

Sprains

Use the RICE method to treat sprains: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Have your child get off the ankle ASAP. Apply ice for cycles of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Bind the ankle with an Ace bandage to protect the skin and reduce swelling. Elevate and rest the injury.

Contact your doctor if your child can’t walk on the ankle that day or if it continues hurting after 6 weeks (The average recovery time is 2 weeks).

Knocked out tooth

Pick up the tooth by the crown (the normally exposed part) and rinse the root off with water if it’s dirty. Don’t scrub or remove tissue. Try putting the tooth back in place.

Not possible? Place in small container of milk (as milk has similar to composition of Hank’s solution)  and see your dentist ASAP. Teeth are more likely salvageable if reinserted within 1 hour of being knocked out.

Head injuries

While many playground injuries are minor, head injuries can be serious. If your child has any signs of a concussion — such as headache, disturbed speech or vision, balance problems or unequal pupils — seek medical attention immediately. Concussions can lead to long-term brain damage and even disability.

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