Oropharyngeal Trauma – What Is It And How Do We Avoid It?

What Is Oropharyngeal Trauma?

Sounds complex huh? In short, all this means is an injury to the inside your child’s mouth.

These injuries are particularly common in toddlers given their tendency to fall easily while carrying things in their mouth such as spoons or hard toys. These types of injuries have the potential to be quite nasty and can cause oral lacerations, injuries to teeth or worse, impalement of the object into their soft palate.

How Can We Avoid It?

It is important that we try and minimise the risk of this with our toddlers by not letting them walk around holding objects like spoons or hard toys in their mouths. Encourage your child to sit down when eating to minimise the risk of falling onto any cutlery. While they are still wobbly on their feet ensure you supervise their play with harder objects. 

How Do We Treat It?

So, what can we do if our child has sustained oropharyngeal trauma?

Firstly, stay calm and take a breath.  The mouth has remarkable healing capabilities and most minor cuts and abrasions in the mouth can heal within a few days.

For Significant Bleeds

If there is a puncture wound to the back of the throat from a pencil, toothbrush or other object there is a risk of injury to the carotid artery (a large blood vessel). These kinds of injuries require urgent medical attention for assessment, and we would recommend you phone an ambulance without delay.

If you notice significant bleeding in your child’s mouth, then position them so as to allow the blood to drain out. If they are conscious lean them forward, don’t let the blood do down their throat into the stomach as this will cause vomiting.

If they have a decreased level of consciousness (as if they are drowsy) lay them down and place them onto their side. 

For Minor Bleeds

For minor bleeds inside the mouth, use a clean cold cloth or gauze to gently press against the area. Bleeding should cease within 10 minutes of gentle pressure within the mouth.

For minor cuts and wounds, offer an ice block to suck on to reduce swelling or hold an icepack wrapped in a washcloth to the cheek.

Administer paracetamol and Nurofen to manage pain as required. Remember to ensure the Five R’s of Medication Administration click here for a refresher.

If your child is not breathing normally or is exhibiting signs of a head injury after a trauma to the mouth, then phone 000 for ambulance assistance. 

Author: Jessica Peters – Paramedic / Rescueblue Trainer.