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  • Select from over 100 symptoms to read more about managing your child's illness.

    Is Your Child Sick? TM


    Arm Injury

    Is this your child's symptom?

    • Injuries to the arm (shoulder to fingers)
    • Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament
    • Excluded: Muscle pain caused by too much exercise or work (overuse). Covered in Arm Pain.

    If NOT, try one of these:


    Types of Arm Injuries

    • Fractures. Fractures are broken bones. A broken collarbone is the most common broken bone in children. It's easy to notice because the collar bone is tender to touch. Also, the child cannot raise the arm upward.
    • Dislocations. This happens when a bone is pulled out of a joint. A dislocated elbow is the most common type of this injury in kids. It's caused by an adult quickly pulling or lifting a child by the arm. Mainly seen in 1 to 4 year olds. It's also easy to spot. The child will hold his arm as if it were in a sling. He will keep the elbow bent and the palm of the hand down.
    • Sprains. Sprains are stretches and tears of ligaments.
    • Strains. Strains are stretches and tears of muscles (such as a pulled muscle).
    • Muscle Overuse. Muscle pain can occur without an injury. There is no fall or direct blow. Muscle overuse is from hard work or sports (such as a sore shoulder).
    • Muscle bruise from a direct blow
    • Bone bruise from a direct blow
    • Skin Injury. Examples are a cut, scratch, scrape or bruise. All are common with arm injuries.

    Pain Scale

    • Mild: your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
    • Moderate: the pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
    • Severe: the pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

    When to Call for Arm Injury

    When to Call for Arm Injury

    Call 911 Now

    • Serious injury with many broken bones
    • Major bleeding that can't be stopped
    • Bone is sticking through the skin
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

    • Can't move the shoulder, elbow or wrist normally
    • Can't open and close the hand normally
    • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
    • Cut over knuckle of hand
    • Age less than 1 year old
    • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
    • You think your child has a serious injury
    • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

    Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

    • Very large bruise or swelling
    • Pain not better after 3 days
    • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

    Call Doctor During Office Hours

    • Injury limits sports or school work
    • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
    • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
    • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
    • You have other questions or concerns

    Self Care at Home

    • Bruised muscle or bone from direct blow
    • Pain in muscle from minor pulled muscle
    • Pain around joint from minor stretched ligament
    • Minor cut or scrape

    Call 911 Now

    • Serious injury with many broken bones
    • Major bleeding that can't be stopped
    • Bone is sticking through the skin
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

    • Can't move the shoulder, elbow or wrist normally
    • Can't open and close the hand normally
    • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
    • Cut over knuckle of hand
    • Age less than 1 year old
    • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
    • You think your child has a serious injury
    • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

    Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

    • Very large bruise or swelling
    • Pain not better after 3 days
    • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

    Call Doctor During Office Hours

    • Injury limits sports or school work
    • Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
    • Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
    • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
    • You have other questions or concerns

    Self Care at Home

    • Bruised muscle or bone from direct blow
    • Pain in muscle from minor pulled muscle
    • Pain around joint from minor stretched ligament
    • Minor cut or scrape

    Care Advice for Minor Arm Injuries

    1. What You Should Know About Minor Arm Injuries:
      • During sports, muscles and bones get bruised.
      • Muscles get stretched.
      • Here is some care advice that should help.
    2. Pain Medicine:
      • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
      • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Ibuprofen works well for this type of pain.
      • Use as needed.
    3. Small Cut or Scrape Treatment:
      • Use direct pressure to stop any bleeding. Do this for 10 minutes or until bleeding stops.
      • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Try to rinse the cut under running water.
      • Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
      • Use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Then, cover it with a bandage. Change daily.
    4. Cold Pack for Pain:
      • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
      • Put it on the sore muscles for 20 minutes.
      • Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
      • Reason: Helps the pain and helps stop any bleeding.
      • Caution: Avoid frostbite.
    5. Use Heat After 48 Hours:
      • If pain lasts over 2 days, put heat on the sore muscle.
      • Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth.
      • Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
      • Reason: Increase blood flow and improve healing.
      • Caution: Avoid burns.
    6. Rest the Arm:
      • Rest the injured arm as much as possible for 48 hours.
    7. What to Expect:
      • Pain and swelling most often peak on day 2 or 3.
      • Swelling should be gone by 7 days.
      • Pain may take 2 weeks to fully go away.
    8. Call Your Doctor If:
      • Pain becomes severe
      • Pain is not better after 3 days
      • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
      • You think your child needs to be seen
      • Your child becomes worse

    And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

    Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

    Copyright 2000-2019 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

    First Aid - Sling - How to Put On

    To put on a sling you first need to have a triangular bandage. Many first aid kits have a triangular bandage.

    • Find the two ends of the triangle that are farthest apart. These are the ends that you will tie around the neck.
    • Lay the arm down the middle of the triangle.
    • Take the two ends of the triangle that are farthest apart and tie them behind the neck. (a square knot is best, but any knot will do).
    First Aid - Bleeding Arm
    • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
    First Aid - Splint for Wrist Injury
    • Immobilize the hand and wrist by placing them on a rigid splint (see drawing).
    • Tie several cloth strips around hand/wrist to keep the splint in place. You can use a roll of gauze or tape instead of cloth strips.

    Notes:

    • You can make a splint from: a wooden board, magazine folded in half, folded-up newspaper, cardboard, or a pillow.
    • If you have no splinting materials, then support the injured arm by resting it on a pillow or folded up blanket.
    • After putting on the splint, apply a cold pack or an ice pack (wrapped in a towel) to the area.
    First Aid - R.I.C.E.

    RICE is an acronym for how to take care of a sprain, strain, or bruise. There are four things you should do:

    • REST the injured part of your body for 24 hours. Can return to normal activity after 24 hours of rest if the activity does not cause severe pain.
    • Apply a cold pack or an ICE bag (wrapped in a moist towel) to the area for 20 minutes. Repeat in 1 hour, then every 4 hours while awake.
    • Apply COMPRESSION by wrapping the injured part with a snug, elastic bandage for 48 hours. If numbness, tingling, or increased pain occurs in the injured part, the bandage may be too tight. Loosen the bandage wrap.
    • Keep the injured part of the body ELEVATED and at rest for 24 hours. For example, for an injured ankle, place that leg up on a pillow and stay off the feet as much as possible.