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Aspen Collar Fit and Care

Aspen Collar Fit and Care

The neck, or cervical spine, is made up of seven cervical vertebrae. The vertebrae are the bones that protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord, a thick bundle of nerve cells, carry messages for movement and feeling to all parts of the body. Muscles and ligaments attach to the vertebrae and help stabilize the spine.

Though the neck is very flexible, the structures of the neck are at risk for injury due to strong, sudden movements or force that may happen in accidents, such as falls, sports or car accidents. This may cause fractures of the vertebrae, tearing or stretching of the ligaments or strain of the muscles.

It is important to evaluate and treat these injuries due to the risk of damage to the spinal cord.

Your Child Should Wear the Collar 24 Hours a Day

Children must wear their cervical collar for 24 hours a day to keep their head and neck in proper alignment and stabilized. It is important to keep the collar on and properly tightened at all times. Your child should only remove the collar, while lying flat, — with the help of an adult — to wash his / her neck.

With the assistance of an adult, your child should:

  • Shower or bathe with the collar on, then change the pad as instructed below.
  • Lie down when changing the collar and pads.
  • Continue activity restrictions until follow-up with the trauma surgery provider.
  • Contact your trauma surgery provider immediately if symptoms worsen or progress.
  • Take medications as instructed by your trauma surgery provider.

Supplies Needed

Soap, water, washcloth, towel and clean pads are needed as part of the daily ritual of care for your child.

Changing the Pads and Caring for the Skin

  • Before taking off your child's collar, gather your supplies.
  • Have your child take a shower or bathe before changing the collar pads.
  • Look at the collar and be familiar with where the Velcro straps end on the front of the collar. Some people find it helpful to take a picture of the collar with their cell phone before the collar is removed for the first time. This will help when reapplying the pads and tightening the collar to assure a proper fit and pad placement.

To Change the Front of the Collar

  • Have your child lie down flat, with arms at the sides. Your child should lie still and not move his / her head or neck while the collar is changed. If he / she cannot lie still, have a second person hold your child's head.
  • Release the Velcro straps and remove the front panel of collar.   

Clean the Skin

  • Clean your child's neck with mild soap and water, gently wiping under the face, chin, and neck; rinse away the soap and gently dry skin; check the skin for redness or breakdown and notify your child's doctor if you see signs of breakdown; do not place powder or gauze padding under the collar.

To Change the Pad

  • Remove the pads from the front panel and apply a dry, clean pad; if the plastic is dirty, clean it with soap and water, or alcohol and dry it thoroughly before applying a clean pad; apply a pad by folding it in half with the gray side facing out; center the pad on the plastic panel and adjust it so the gray side grips the Velcro dots; the foam pad must cover all the edges of the plastic so the plastic does not touch the skin; if it doesn't, move the pad until it covers all the plastic.

Reapply the Front of the Collar

  • Squeeze the top and bottom of collar together and tuck the collar under your child's chin; the chin should come to the end of the chin piece for a good fit.

To Change the Back Panel of the Collar

  • Slide the back piece out from under your child’s neck keeping your child flat on his/her back (no pillows) with their neck straight.
  • Remove the back panel of the collar.

Clean the Skin:

  • Clean your child's neck with mild soap and water; rinse away the soap and gently dry the skin; check the skin for redness or breakdown. Do not place powder, lotion or gauze under the collar.

To Change the Pad:

  • Remove the pad from the back panel if the plastic is dirty, clean it with soap and water or alcohol and dry it thoroughly before applying a clean pad. Reapply the new, clean pads with the gray side facing out and the white side to your child’s skin. The pads must cover all the edges of the plastic so the plastic does not touch the skin.

Reapply the Back of the Collar

  • Slide the back piece under the child’s neck to center along their neck.
  • Your child should remain flat on their back with their neck in a straight position when reapplying.

Resecure the Collar

  • Secure the Velcro on both sides of the collar.
  • Tighten each strap one at a time to remove any slack or looseness.

Check for Proper Fit:

  • Your child's head is midline with the rest of the body and not tilted or turned to the side.
  • The chin comes to the end of the plastic chin piece.
  • The Velcro straps end at the same place on the front of the collar.
  • No plastic is touching your child's skin

Cleaning the Pads:

  • Clean the dirty pads with mild soap and water. Allow them to air dry completely before reusing them. Do not put them in the washer or dryer.

Emotional Recovery

After the injury, your child may be tired and irritable. It takes time to heal. Use this time for rest and quiet activities. Have your child play board games, read, or do small craft projects for short periods of time. Infants and toddlers are harder to distract and will be more difficult to confine. Try putting your infant or toddler in a large crib or playpen. Ask family and friends to visit, but for short periods of time and not at the same time to minimize activity.

After any trauma children may experience acute stress symptoms that may be reflective of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you notice your child having nightmares, flashbacks, nervousness, irritability or any other concerning emotional symptoms please speak with the trauma surgery provider. Short term therapy can be provided to help children heal and recover emotionally after a trauma.

Activity after a Neck Injury

While in the collar your child will not be allowed to go to gym class, recess, or play sports while they are wearing a neck brace. They should not lift over 5 lbs. or carry a heavy book bag. At your follow-up appointment at Trauma Clinic your trauma surgery provider will provide you with instruction about returning to activities.

When to Call Your Trauma Surgery Provider

Once home, call the Trauma Clinic or seek medical attention if your child has increased neck pain, numbness / tingling, weakness in the arms or legs, loss of bowel / bladder control, or skin breakdown.

Follow-Up / Contact Us

Most children with a neck injury will be seen in the Trauma Clinic 5-7 days after discharge. The Trauma Clinic number is 513-636-8556.

Additional testing may be done at your follow-up appointment in the Trauma Clinic. Usually no follow-up is needed after that appointment.

Some children with a more severe neck injury will follow-up with Neurosurgery.

Preventive Action

It is very important to teach your child about all types of safety. Make sure your child is secured in an age-appropriate restraint every time they ride in a vehicle. Children under 13 are safer in a backseat in the correct restraint. Make sure your child wears the correct helmet when riding a bike, using other wheeled toys, or takes part in other active sports.

Last Updated 04/2019

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