Broken Neck in Children: Care Instructions

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Overview

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 your child.

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 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 your child to wear it exactly as the doctor directed. Do not take it off until the doctor tells you to.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • Store your child's prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • 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.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the painful area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin or brace.
  • 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 now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms in the arms, legs, 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 if:

  • Your child has problems with the neck brace.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.