Broken Neck in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A broken neck can range from a small, hairline crack, to a bone or bones breaking into two or more pieces. Treatment for a broken neck depends on how bad the break is and which bones are involved. Your child will likely be sent home with a neck brace or collar. You can help your child's neck heal with care at home.

Healthy habits can help your child heal. Give your child a variety of healthy foods. And don't smoke around him or her.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If your child was fitted for a neck brace, help him or her wear it exactly as the doctor directed. Do not take it off until the doctor tells you to.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for returning to normal activities.
  • Help your child follow instructions for any exercises that are given to keep muscles strong and reduce stiffness.
  • You can try using heat or ice to see if it helps.
    • Try using a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Try a warm shower in place of one session with the heating pad. You can also buy single-use heat wraps that last up to 8 hours.
    • You can also try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Make sure that paths in your home are clear so that your child does not fall. Also make sure that lighting is good and that carpets are tacked down to prevent tripping.
  • Talk to your doctor about changes in diet that can help make your child's bones stronger.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child is unable to move an arm or a leg at all.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms in his or her arms, legs, chest, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • Your child loses bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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