COVID-19 has changed the way families go about their daily routines. With public schools being closed, most parents now have to take on several roles at once. Most are working, providing home schooling and care during the day, and taking on other new roles.
These added responsibilities and decreased supervision have led to a rise in household injuries in children, according to Jessica L. Traver, MD, a pediatric and sports medicine orthopedic surgeon with UT Physicians and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. She shares her expertise on what types of injuries may occur, possible symptoms to look for, safety measures you can take, and when you should seek care.
With the number of activities and social activities being so limited, children are finding creative ways to have fun at home or in their yard. Correspondingly, this has caused a rise in slip and fall injuries, concussions, bumps, bruises, and other bodily injuries. “Children are often fearless. This can lead them to jump off of or onto almost anything,” Traver said. “They may not have the awareness to understand the potential dangers of their actions.”
Trampolines have grown in popularity over the years and are commonly found in backyards, jump parks, and fitness classes. This has led to a rise in broken bones and fractures.
“We are seeing a large increase in the number of injuries caused by trampolines right now since kids are stuck at home,” Traver said. “Young children have open growth plates, which are more susceptible to injury.”
General trampoline safety guidelines including limiting trampoline use to children 6 years of age and older, allowing only one child at a time on the trampoline, and always having adult supervision. Seek care if your child sustains an injury and is unable to walk.
Falling and playing sports are some of the leading causes of head injuries in children under 17. The extent of injuries can range anywhere from bumps and bruises to concussion and skull fractures. Activities such as riding bikes, skateboarding, trampoline jumping, and playing team sports such as basketball, football, or soccer also increase the risk for head injuries.
Severity of symptoms will vary for each person.
“A child with a mild concussion may have symptoms including nausea, confusion, blurred or double vision, and lightheadedness,” Traver said. “Moderate to severe injuries can have more serious symptoms. Look for slurred speech, loss of consciousness, short-term memory loss, and difficulty walking.”
To protect against head injury, children should wear helmets that are fitted properly for activities where there is a high risk of falling. Seek immediate care if your child loses consciousness or if they have any of the more serious symptoms.
Muscle strain injuries
These are often caused by overuse, stretching, or pulling a muscle. This type of injury can happen during activities such as playing sports, enjoying the playground, or lifting heavy objects.
Pain can be felt immediately or hours after the initial injury. The affected muscle can be bruised or lightly swollen. Prevention of muscle strains includes properly warming up and stretching before an activity and wearing proper equipment.
“Immediately after sustaining a muscle strain, you should rest it for a couple of days,” Traver said. “Apply ice packs onto the swollen or sore area for 30 minutes every four hours for a few days. You can also apply a light compression wrap or bandage. Elevating the injured limb can help reduce both pain and swelling.”
Seek immediate care if your child experiences new pain or numbness, is unable to move or bear weight, or if the skin color of the affected area changes.
For mild injuries, consider visiting with your orthopedic specialist through a telehealth appointment. It can be done from the comfort of your own home. It’s convenient, safe, and secure. The provider can assess the injury and offer recommendations for treatment.
“Telehealth appointments allow parents to get quick access to an expert without having to take time off from work or arrange child care. We can easily provide a diagnosis and treatment plan or recommend an in-clinic appointment, if needed,” Traver said.