We all know as parents and carers that our kids can hurt or otherwise injure themselves easily. We know about kids head injuries and how they fall off ‘stuff’ and bang their heads; we know children choke on just about any object they can fit in their mouths (and some you didn’t realize would fit!); we know they grab hot things and get burned. It’s just part of looking after kids, right?
What about the unexpected causes of childhood injury? Those things you didn’t realize might happen, which are still all too common. Let’s review three of them today. The first of our unexpected causes of childhood injury can be quite serious – the other two less so. Oh yes, and the third of our unexpected causes of childhood injury? From a health care provider point of view, that’s very common – please read on and try to avoid doing this!!


We probably all have vivid images of strangulation, thanks in part to TV and film. Strangulation is that dramatic scene where the guy is so frustrated he finally raises his hands and….. No, stop. That might be possible, but here are the more likely causes of strangulation in kids:

  • Strings, especially those attached to curtains or blinds
  • Cords on toys, especially if the toy is designed to be swung around in the first place
  • Clothing & ties
  • Ribbons

I’m thinking you can probably recognize strangulation so what do we do to treat it? Well it’s common sense:

  • Safely cut the string/cord/tie/ribbon
  • Check ABCs
  • CPR if needed
  • Get appropriate help

OK, next on our list of unexpected causes of childhood injury is….

Fractured nose with haemorrhage. The injury wa...

Image via Wikipedia

Nose Injuries

Oh yes – Nose Injuries are something we have personal experience of here! Commonly nose injuries are caused by:

  • Running into stationary objects
  • Falling onto a hard surface
  • Hit by flying toy
  • Hit by another child

(Above – OK so not a child, but this is still a sports injury! Yes it’s broken.) With any kind of nose injury there will usually be pain and crying, almost always bleeding and occasionally a broken nose. The treatment is to pinch the soft part of the nose, just under the bridge (if this worsens things – assume it may be broken and take a trip to E.R.). Tilt them forward so any blood can drain. Wait for the bleeding to stop and comfort & reassure. Nose injuries are not often serious, but could be complicated by gagging/coughing on the blood.
So what’s that third, avoidable item on our review of the unexpected causes of childhood injury?

Pulled Elbow

So your ‘Johnny’ was whacking another kid with the toy hammer. In a hurry to prevent damage you grabbed his hammer-wielding hand and pulled him away from the other child quickly. Now Johnny complains of elbow pain – it’s called a pulled elbow.
Or let’s say for some reason you decided it was OK to pick up the child by one hand and lift her off her feet. I mean she’s only 50 lbs right, it’s not like she’s heavy….? Not to you Rambo, but that’s a huge weight to be dangling off a 5-year-old’s elbow joint. Ouch!
Or in a more friendly light, daddy was playing ‘planes’ with him – swinging him in circles round & round by both hands, faster and faster until of course one hand slipped. Daddy put him down safely but the pain in the elbow tells you it’s definitely a pulled elbow. You get the idea.
In ‘pulled elbow’ injuries, there may be tendon damage, or it’s possible for the forearm to slip out of the elbow joint briefly. Often it goes back without any medical intervention. More severe cases of pulled elbow will need a trip to the hospital.
First aid for the pulled elbow will include:
Make sure that it’s not serious. Check for:

  • Severe swelling
  • Much more pain that you might expect
  • Crunching noise or feeling at the elbow when it moves
  • Unable to move the elbow joint (or can’t do so without a lot of pain)

If you have any of these symptoms with a pulled elbow, get them checked out. Mild cases will benefit from

  • Rest – no more hitting, swinging, etc.
  • Ice – will take down swelling and reduce pain
  • Compression – bandage to reduce swelling
  • (Elevation don’t really apply to elbow injuries!)

So that’s out top three unexpected causes of childhood injury. They’re all fully expected and to some extent may be preventable. Now here’s your homework!
Go find all the preventable causes of strangulation in your environment (home, daycare, school, wherever you are right now) and deal with them. Nosebleeds might be briefly traumatic, but death by strangulation is final. So for example if you’ve got blinds, make sure the drawstring is out of hands-reach.
Finally, if you have any other unexpected injuries, list them below so we all know what (not?) to expect. If there are enough, there could be another post about treating them.