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Healing is a Process: Injury Recovery Advice

When our kids get hurt, all we want to do is shield them from further harm and make them better. We also worry about the time they will take to heal: how much normal activity will they miss out on? What are the best ways to support them and get them back on track? Of course, recovery guidance depends on the specific injuries, so let’s go through some common ones and talk about what the healing process might look like.


A laceration is a tear in the skin, varying in severity from minor cuts to deeper wounds involving muscles or tendons. Lacerations can occur due to all types of accidents and mishaps. Babies and toddlers often get cuts on their heads, faces, and upper body from running into sharp furniture edges as they learn to walk. (Remember to baby-proof the house once your child becomes mobile!) Older kids can get lacerations while playing sports, learning to cook, crafting, cleaning up glass, and in many other situations.

Generally, the best practice is that a laceration be closed and treated within approximately 12 hours of the accident. The sooner it is addressed, the less risk of infection there is, and the easier recovery will be in most cases.

Clean minor cuts with soap and water before applying a sterile bandage. For deeper or severe lacerations with significant bleeding or tissue damage, medical attention is necessary for proper cleaning, closure with stitches or adhesive, and wound care instructions.

Recovery duration depends on factors like location, wound severity and individual health. Minor cuts could heal in days to a week, and deeper ones could require longer healing times and medical supervision. During recovery:

Dislocated Joints

A dislocated joint occurs when the ends of two connected bones separate from their normal position due to trauma, such as a fall or sudden impact. Nursemaid’s elbow, or a partial dislocation of the radial bone in the elbow, is one of the most common injuries in young children and toddlers. It occurs when a child is suddenly pulled by one arm – usually to get them out of harm’s way or prevent them from falling.

If your child has a dislocated joint, seek medical attention immediately. Treatment involves realigning the dislocated joint with medical intervention, in some cases immobilization, and pain relief. Physical therapy can be helpful to restore joint strength and flexibility. Severe cases may require surgery. Prompt treatment is key to minimizing pain, preventing complications, and enabling full recovery.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries affecting ligaments, muscles, and tendons, occurring when these tissues are stretched or torn due to sudden movements or overexertion. A sprain involves injury to a ligament, which connects bones, while a strain affects muscles or tendons.

To treat, follow the RICE method:

  1. Rest to prevent further damage and allow the tissues to heal properly.
  2. Ice the injured area to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes several times a day, especially during the first 48 hours after the injury.
  3. Compression: wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage to reduce swelling and provide support to the injured tissues. Don’t wrap too tightly to avoid restricting blood flow.
  4. Elevate the injured limb above the level of the heart to reduce swelling by promoting fluid drainage.

Depending on the place of injury, the limb might need to be immobilized with braces or splints. Physical therapy exercises may help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion once the acute phase of the injury has passed.

General Recovery Notes

If injured, your kids might be anxious to return to full activity too soon, but this might put them at risk of re-injury. Help them cope by suggesting fun and safe alternative activities to keep their mind occupied while their body heals. Light, gradual return to activity is always a good idea, understanding that they should listen to their body and stop if there is sustained discomfort.

Although injuries are a common occurrence in children and young adults, proper aftercare and adherence to treatment recommendations are essential for promoting healing, minimizing complications, and facilitating a speedy recovery.

From strep throat to stitches, we’re here for your family – wherever you are! Click here to find a PM Pediatric Urgent Care near you, or learn about our telemedicine options!

About the Expert

headshot of Dr. Christina Johns

Dr. Christina Johns is a nationally recognized pediatric emergency physician and Senior Medical Advisor at PM Pediatric Care. An official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is board-certified in both pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. With extensive media experience, the proud mom of two teenagers shares over 20 years of pediatric expertise with patients and families everywhere. Follow Dr. Johns for more insights on children’s health!