How to Treat 10 Common Playground Injuries
Whether it happens on the rock wall or the swing, find out what Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatricians recommend when your child gets hurt on the playground.
little There’s no avoiding it. Kids play tough and eventually get hurt. Here, Cleveland Clinic Children’s experts offer their tips for knowing how to tend to boo-boos — and when to seek medical attention for something more serious.
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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 (NOT 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.
When it’s more urgent: Call for help if bleeding persists after 10 minutes, if the cut is deep/large and may require stitches, if there’s debris in the wound or if you have concerns.
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.
When it’s more urgent: 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.
Don’t break or “pop” the blister. 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 healed.
Try removing using wrapping tape (simply apply and pull off!), tweezers or a needle (sterilized first). If successfully removed, clean the area with soap and water.
When it’s more urgent: 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.
Apply pressure for 10 minutes with a clean cloth to stop bleeding. Wash the area to remove any dirt (but don’t scrub!) with water and mild soap.
When it’s more urgent: Call your pediatrician if bleeding doesn’t stop after 10 minutes of applying pressure, if the cut is deep and may require stitches, if there is 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!)
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.
When it’s more urgent: Seek medical help if bleeding continues after 15-20 minutes or your child loses more than a coffee cup’s worth of blood.
Use a cold compress for 10-20 minutes. Never place ice or cold directly on the eye or eyelid. Avoid using chemical packs as they may leak and cause further damage.
When it’s more urgent: Consult your pediatrician if you have concerns.
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.
When it’s more urgent: Contact your doctor if your child can’t walk on the ankle that day or if it continues hurting after 6 weeks (average recovery = 2 weeks).
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 pain. Check healing daily.
When it’s more urgent: Contact your pediatrician if you notice signs of infection (increased swelling, redness, pain or pus).
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.
When it’s more urgent: Not possible? Place in small container of milk (or water with a pinch of table salt) and see your dentist ASAP. Teeth are more likely salvageable if reinserted within 1 hour of being knocked out.
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.