An elastic wrap can help control swelling after a hand injury.
Hand injuries are common in children. An active 10-year-old may sustain a hand injury during a fall or sport-related trauma. These injuries are often not serious and can be treated at home. However, bone fractures, tendon injuries and ligament damage are injuries that require immediate medical attention. Swelling that is accompanied by deformity or bruising, or persists after 24 hours should also be evaluated by a doctor.
Rest and Medication
Rest from activity is the first treatment for hand swelling. Children are typically active, and it may be difficult to convince them to rest. However, a splint can be used to help a child remember to rest the hand. In some cases, a doctor may put a hard cast on the wrist and hand for 1 to 2 weeks to prevent the child from using it.
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and aspirin, are often used to decrease swelling caused by inflammation after injury. Follow the instructions for proper dosage and maximum length of use. Consult your child's doctor for medication-related questions.
Ice can be used for 24 to 72 hours after injury to decrease swelling in your child's hand. Several ice cubes can be placed in a plastic bag with a small amount of cool water. Do not apply an ice pack directly to the skin because this can cause tissue freezing and permanent damage. Place a washcloth or folded paper towel between the ice pack and the skin to prevent this from occurring. Apply the bag to the injured hand for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 5 times each day. Allow 1 hour between ice applications.
Gentle pressure applied with an elastic bandage to an injured hand will decrease swelling. This type of elastic bandage can typically be found at a drug store. Fluid in the hand is moved into the arm where it is more easily absorbed. Swelling tends to accumulate in the fingers because they are the farthest away from the heart. Wrapping begins at the base of the fingers, overlapping half of the width with each consecutive layer. Continue until the wrap has crossed the wrist and secure with tape. Metal closures can cause injury, particularly if your child attempts to remove them.
Use caution not to wrap the bandage too tightly. This will decrease blood flow to the fingers. If your child's fingers turn dusky or blue, or if he complains of numbness or tingling in his fingers, the wrap is too tight. Compression wraps can be worn most of the time, removing them for hygiene and ice application. Swelling should decrease significantly within the first 3 days after injury.
Swelling in the hand decreases when the arm is elevated above the level of the heart. This may be a challenge with a 10-year-old who would prefer to be moving around. Encourage the child to lie on the couch with his arm propped up on a pillow for 15 to 30 minutes while he reads or watches television. Prop his arm on pillows while he sleeps as well. Gravity will help excess fluid move out of the hand and toward the heart. Gentle finger movement will help with this process. Encourage your child to make a fist and open his fingers several times while it is elevated -- but only if it is pain-free.