Broken Bones, Sprains, and Strains

Print this page Bookmark and Share
Parents

A broken (fractured) bone requires emergency care. Suspect a possible broken bone if your child heard or felt a bone snap, if your child has difficulty moving the injured part, or if the injured part moves in an unnatural way or is very painful to the touch.

A sprain occurs when the ligaments, which hold bones together, are overstretched and partially torn. Simply overstretching any part of the musculature is called a strain. Sprains and strains generally cause swelling and pain, and there may be bruises around the injured area. Most sprains, after proper medical evaluation, can be treated at home.

What to Do:

For a Suspected Broken Bone:
  • If the injury involves your child's neck or back, do not move him unless the child is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Phone for emergency medical help. If your child must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilized first. Keeping your child's head, neck, and back in alignment, move the child as a unit.
  • If your child has an open break (bone protrudes through the skin) and there is severe bleeding, apply pressure on the bleeding area with a gauze pad or a clean piece of clothing or other material. Do not wash the wound or try to push back any part of the bone that may be sticking out.
  • If your child must be moved, apply splints around the injured limb to prevent further injury. Leave the limb in the position you find it. The splints should be applied in that position. Splints can be made by using boards, brooms, a stack of newspapers, cardboard, or anything firm, and can be padded with pillows, shirts, towels, or anything soft. Splints must be long enough to extend beyond the joints above and below the fracture.
  • Place cold packs or a bag of ice wrapped in cloth on the injured area.
  • Keep your child lying down until medical help arrives.
For a Suspected Sprain or Strain:
  • If the injury involves your child's neck or back, do not move him unless the child is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Phone for emergency medical help. If your child must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilized first. Keeping the head, neck, and back in alignment, move your child as a unit.
  • It may be difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a break. If there is any doubt whatsoever, phone your doctor or take your child to the nearest hospital emergency department. An X-ray can determine whether a bone is broken.
  • First aid for sprains and strains includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as RICE).
    • Rest the injured part of the body.
    • Apply ice packs or cold compresses for up to 10 or 15 minutes at a time every few hours for the first 2 days to prevent swelling.
    • Wearing an elastic compression bandage (such as an ACE bandage) for at least 2 days will reduce swelling.
    • Keep the injured part elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible to reduce swelling.

ice pack on ankle

  • Do not apply heat in any form for at least 24 hours. Heat increases swelling and pain.
  • Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2010



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.


Related Articles

Dislocations Instruction Sheet A dislocation is when two connected bones become separated. These injuries require emergency medical care to avoid further damage.
Broken Bones Instruction Sheet Broken bones are not uncommon in children - especially after a fall. A broken bone requires emergency medical care. Find out what to do in this printer-friendly version.
Frequently Asked Questions About Casts Getting a cast often comes with plenty of questions. Read on for answers to some frequent inquiries many parents - and kids - may have about casts.
Broken Bones Although many kids will have one at some point, a broken bone can be scary for them and parents alike. To help make things a little easier if a spill results in a fracture, here's the lowdown on what to expect.
What You Need to Know in an Emergency In an emergency, it's hard to think clearly about your kids' health information. Here's what important medical information you should have handy, just in case.
Common Childhood Orthopedic Conditions Flatfeet, toe walking, pigeon toes, bowlegs, and knock-knees. Lots of kids have these common orthopedic conditions, but do they represent medical problems that can and should be corrected?




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2013 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

Upcoming Events

Join the Dayton Children's Air Force Marathon Team and run for kids who can't September 20, 2014.

Car Seat Safety Check

The Fuel the Miracles Car & Bike Show will take place September 27 at the Moraine Walmart.

Learn about healthy lifestyles including exercise and nutrition!

View full event calendarView full event calendar

Health and Safety

Your child's health and safety is our top priority

Accreditations

The Children's Medical Center of Dayton Dayton Children's
The Right Care for the Right Reasons

One Children's Plaza - Dayton, Ohio - 45404-1815
937-641-3000
www.childrensdayton.org