Parents, when you were kids, did you ever hit the monkey bars wrong or smack your groin on the central tube of a bicycle frame? Hurts like crazy! If your child cries out and grabs private parts, he or she may be having the same experience–a blow to the sex organs in the perineum (between the legs) that may cause bleeding, infection, or serious genital injury.
When kids get genital injuries
In most cases, kids suffering a groin hit or other injury only have bruising, swelling, and a LOT of immediate pain. Cuts and other minor injuries in the area usually heal in 3 or 4 days.
However, groin accidents may signal a serious medical emergency. They can cause a lot of bleeding and/or affect urinary and/or reproductive function on a temporary or permanent basis.
Remain calm. If you are very concerned or if the child shows any of the symptoms listed, seek medical help immediately.
Major pain, swelling, bruising, or bleeding occurs.
Bleeding cannot be stopped after 10 minutes of compression.
Child cannot stand up.
Child loses consciousness (faints).
Try to remove a foreign object inserted in the groin (either by yourself or by another nonmedical person)
Let the child change clothes or bathe if you suspect sexual abuse.
In either of these cases, seek medical help right away.
What can cause genital injury in children?
Research shows that genital injuries tend to cluster into particular age groups and involve specific consumer products.
Children of either sex are prone to straddle injuries such as slipping on monkey bars and landing with legs on each side of the bar, and bike crossbar impact. Both sexes can suffer sports injuries to the groin. Trauma from another type of accident or from sexual abuse, assault, or rape can have the same effect. At least half of deliberate sexual abuses cause genital injury.
Consumer products such as toys, playground equipment, clothing, tools, and furniture can also injure a child’s genitals.
Research into this area and into prevention of product-caused injuries is ongoing. Less common causes of child genital injury include medical error, genital mutilation (common in certain rituals such as circumcision and clitorectomy), and war.
Events that can injure girls
Girls may sustain injury to the labia, vulva, and/or vagina. Injury may be unintentionally or intentionally self-inflicted, happen by accident, or result from sexual abuse or rape. Accidents are the usual cause.
Girls under 4 years sometimes injure themselves by inserting foreign objects like toilet tissue, crayons, or beads into their vaginas. This is developmentally normal but may cause injury. Rule out sexual abuse in this case by having the health care provider ask the young girl how the object got in her vagina.
Shaving pubic hair has injured many girls’ genitals during the fashion trends toward exposure over the past 10 years.
Events that can injure boys
In boys, the scrotum or penis may be injured. Common causes include a lifted toilet seat slamming down on the penis and zipping or unzipping pants, which can trap the scrotum, penis, or foreskin.
Sports injuries can harm the genitals, especially in contact sports like football and wrestling.
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding (rich blood supply in the perineum causes oozing)
- Change in shape of affected area
- Doubling over
- Falling down and rolling
- Grasping the affected area
- Groin pain
- Inability to urinate
- Object embedded in a body opening
- Painful urination
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Urine drainage
First aid for genital injury
Some concrete advice about what to do if a child’s genitals are injured:
Keep the child calm. Be sensitive to the child’s privacy needs.
Get medical help immediately if needed.
Wash a wound gently with soap and water for 5 minutes.
Place a clean cloth or sterile dressing on any open wounds.
Control bleeding with direct pressure.
Apply antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) as directed.
Apply cold compresses to reduce bruising, swelling, and bleeding (cold wet washcloth to the area once for 20 minutes, if child can tolerate it).
Support injured testicles with a sling made from towels placed on like a diaper.
Leave any object stuck in a body opening or a wound alone, because taking it out may further damage the victim.
Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as needed for pain relief.
Call 911 if:
- Major pain, swelling, bruising, or bleeding occurs.
- Bleeding cannot be stopped after 10 minutes of compression.
- Child cannot stand up.
- Child loses consciousness (faints).
Seek prompt medical help night or day in these cases:
- Child is an infant (less than one year old)
- Pain is severe
- Skin is split
- Object (zipper, penetrating item) remains stuck
- Scrotum swells
- Urination causes pain or is difficult,
- Blood appears in vagina or in urine,
- You feel the injury is serious, or
- You have any concern about possible sexual abuse.
Call your doctor during regular office hours if:
- Child has not had a tetanus shot in over 5 years (DIRTY cuts),
- Child has not had a tetanus shot in over 10 years (CLEAN cuts), or
- Genital pain or swelling persists over 7 days
Create a safe environment for children.
Keep small objects out of the reach of toddlers.
Inspect playgrounds before allowing a child to use equipment.
Never leave a young child at an unattended playground.
Make sure schools are keeping students safe.
Teach safety and first aid to children.
Make sure babysitters and family caretakers know first aid.
Post a list of emergency numbers in your house.
Carry a copy with you.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
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