Every mom needs to know R.I.C.E. therapy and have the supplies in her medicine cabinet to take care of everything from the most minor orthopedic complaint to the most serious injury.
If there is swelling, deformity, decreased movement, or your child continues to cry, you should take your child to the clinic to get the injured extremity checked out. Whether or not you need to go to the clinic, you should start R.I.C.E. therapy right away.
For that child that runs to mom with every little injury it’s difficult to tell if you need to go to the clinic. Rest is a useful diagnostic tool. In your most loving tone, tell that child to lay down on the couch (best if no TV or video games, just rest). If soon enough she is bored and back to running around outside, then no need to take her to the clinic.
For the more serious injury, rest means immobilizing the affected limb. You’ll want to splint the area and make your way to the clinic.
For diagnosed injuries, rest means to obey the doctor’s instructions for how long to stay off the ankle, wear the sling, splint, or cast, and not use the affected limb. The athlete that ignores rest instructions and gets back on the field before the injury has properly healed, is more likely to continue having problems or to get another injury.
I love that mom that makes a mad dash to the concession stand and returns with a massive bag of ice whenever a player goes down! Be that mom.
Pain and swelling is a result of the inflammatory response as the blood cells rush to the injured area. Ice slows down that rush of circulation and can significantly decrease the amount of swelling and resulting pain. So, ice early is the way to go. Apply an ice pack as soon as the injury happens and every 4 to 6 hours for 20 minutes at a time for the first 24-48 hours. If the ice pack is too cold, you can wrap it in a towel or cloth before applying it directly to the skin. In Africa, your home or school is more likely to have ice than the clinic, so bring some from home. The best ice pack is a bag of frozen peas or mixed vegetables. The bag stays sealed and frozen vegetables easily cover the injury. Plus they refreeze easily for use again.
This is particularly helpful for joint injuries, such as a sprained ankle or knee. Wrap an ace bandage (ace wrap, Krep bandage) snuggly around the joint. This also reduces swelling and helps the joint feel better by providing some support. Check for good circulation by pushing down on the fingernail or toenail of the affected area until it turns white. When you let up, color should come back to normal within a few seconds. If it takes longer than that, then loosen the bandage a little.
For diagnosed injuries wear the ankle or knee brace as directed by your doctor.
If possible, elevating the affected extremity helps decrease the swelling and the resulting pain. The best way to do this is to lie down and prop the affected area on a stack of pillows. This is fun to do for the dramatic child as well.
Stock your medicine cabinet:
- Plastic flip flops that can be bought in every African market are handy to use as homemade ankle splints- just put one on each side of the ankle and secure them with an ace bandage or strips of cloth.
- Cardboard boxes are also very useful to cut up to use as splints to immobilize an extremity as you make your way to the clinic.
- Keep a bag of frozen peas or vegetables in the freezer to use as a ready-made ice pack.
- Ace wraps (crepe bandages) are wonderful to have around to secure the splints.
- Chintenji (African cloth) can be used to make a sling, tear into strips for bandages, or to secure or cushion a splint.
- Bandage tape can be used to tape injured fingers together to immobilize them.
- For pain relief, keep Brufen syrup or tablets. Brufen helps with both pain and inflammation. Follow the directions on the bottle.