A child's broken arm: What to do in an emergency

A broken arm can be scary for your child. Our arms consist of three bones and each of...

A broken arm can be scary for your child. Our arms consist of three bones and each of these can break. In the U.S., approximately one-third of children will have suffered a fracture by the age of 18, and the rate of fractures increases as kids reach puberty. Boys reach the peak rate of fractures around ages 10 to 12, and girls reach theirs a little later, around ages 13 to 15, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of a broken arm

  • Severe pain that may increase with movement
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Deformity that is easily observed
  • The arm may be stiff and unmoveable
  • Child may not be able to turn his arm palm up to palm down

What to do if your child has a broken arm

  • Take your child to the emergency room. Do not try to move the arm.
  • Before you take your child to the emergency room or to your local Atlanta physician, make an improvised sling or use a rolled up newspaper or magazine as a splint to protect the arm from unnecessary movement. To make a sling, you should:
  1. Fold a scarf or piece of cloth into a triangle.
  2. Place the longest side of the triangle vertically across the body, with the point of the triangle at the elbow. The top end of the triangle should sit above the shoulder of the uninjured arm.
  3. Place the injured arm over the part of the triangle. Pull the bottom end of the triangle up to the shoulder of the injured arm.
  4. Your child's broken arm should be inside the triangle. The elbow should be covered and the fingers peeking out.
  5. Tie or pin the two ends together at the back of the neck to complete the sling.
  • Don't give your child pain relievers without consulting the doctor. If your child is older, you can use a cold pack or a cold towel placed on the injury to reduce pain. Babies and toddlers have delicate skin, so using ice in this situation isn't a good idea.
  • If part of the injury is open and bleeding, or if bone is protruding, place firm pressure on the wound and cover it with sterile gauze. Don't attempt to put the bone back inside the skin.
  • Apply ice packs to prevent swelling and relieve pain. Don't apply ice directly to the skin wrap it in a towel or a piece of cloth.

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