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First Aid: Broken Bones

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD

Broken bones (or fractures) are a common injury in kids. They often happen after a fall. All broken bones need medical care, no matter how small it seems.

Signs & Symptoms of a Broken Bone

Your child may have a broken bone if:

  • You heard a "snap" or a grinding noise during an injury.
  • There's swelling, bruising, or tenderness.
  • The injured part is hard to move or hurts when moving, being touched, or bearing weight.
  • There is a deformity — this means that the body part looks crooked or different than it did before the injury.

What to Do

  • Try not to move the injured arm or leg.
  • Gently take clothing off the injured area. If this is very painful for your child, use scissors to cut off the clothing.
  • Keep the injured limb in the position you find it.
  • Put a simple splint on the broken area if you have one. A splint holds the bone still. This protects it until the child is seen by the doctor. To make a splint, you can use a small board, cardboard, or folded up newspapers. Wrap it with an elastic bandage or tape.
  • Get medical care.
  • Don't let your child eat or drink in case they need surgery.

Do Not Move Your Child and Call 911 Right Away If:

  • You suspect a serious injury to the head, neck, or back.
  • A broken bone comes through the skin. While waiting for help:
    • Keep your child lying down.
    • Do not wash the wound or push in any part that's sticking out.

Think Prevention!

Not every fracture can be prevented. But you can make a break less likely. Follow these tips:

  • Help kids build strong bones by making sure they get enough calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity. 
  • Have kids and teens wear a helmet and safety equipment like wrist guards and knee pads when riding a bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, scooter, or any type of skates and roller blades.
  • Remind young athletes to use the needed safety equipment for their sport. 
  • Use safety gates at bedroom doors and at both the top and bottom of stairs (for babies or toddlers).
  • Do not use infant walkers.
Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: July 2022