Swedish Kids Symptom Checker

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Arm Injury

1. Does this describe your child's symptoms?

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).


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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

The x-ray shows a collar bone (clavicle) fracture in a 9 year old who fell off his bicycle.

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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

This x-ray shows a "buckle" or "Torus" fracture of the radius (forearm).

This fracture is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 11. Typically, the child reports having fallen onto his or her outstretched hand.

The main clue to diagnosis is pain that persists longer than a couple hours, especially if the child does not want to use the arm.

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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

The medical term for nursemaid's elbow is subluxation of the radial head.

  • Usually the child won't use the elbow.
  • The palm of the hand is turned downward.
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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

Small minor bruise (contusion) on forearm.

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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

  • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

  • 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.


  • 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.


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Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

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.
  • Continue to apply crushed ICE packs for 10-20 minutes every hour for the first 4 hours. Then apply ice for 10-20 minutes 4 times a day for the first two days.
  • 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.


LMS Inc.

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

LMS Inc.

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.


  • Injuries to arm (shoulder to fingers)
  • Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament

Types of Arm Injuries

  • Fractures (broken bones). A broken collarbone (clavicle) is the most common fracture of childhood.  Easy to recognize because the collar bone is tender to touch and the child is unwilling to raise the arm upward.
  • Dislocations (bone out of joint). A pulled elbow is the most common dislocation of childhood.  It's caused by an adult suddenly pulling or lifting a child by the arm.  Mainly 1 to 4 year olds. Easy to recognize because the child holds his arm as if it were in a sling with the elbow bent and the palm down.
  • Sprains - stretches and tears of ligaments
  • Strains - stretches and tears of muscles (e.g., pulled muscle)
  • Muscle overuse injuries from sports or exercise
  • Muscle bruise from a direct blow
  • Bone bruise from a direct blow

Pain Severity Scale

  • MILD: doesn’t interfere with normal activities
  • MODERATE: interferes with normal activities or awakens from sleep
  • SEVERE: excruciating pain, unable to do any normal activities, incapacitated by pain

2. When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Looks like a broken bone or dislocated joint
  • Swollen elbow or any large swelling
  • Skin beyond the injury is pale or blue
  • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
  • Age under 1 year old
  • Bicycle spoke or washing machine wringer injury
  • Pain is SEVERE (and not improved after 2 hours of pain medicine)
  • Unable to move arm or shoulder normally (especially if someone pulled on the arm)
  • Young child and cries when you try to move the shoulder (collarbone fracture suspected)
  • Joint nearest the injury can't be moved fully (opened and closed)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Serious injury with multiple fractures
  • Major bleeding that can't be stopped

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Pain not improved after 3 days

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Pain lasts over 2 weeks

Parent Care at Home If

  • Bruised muscle or bone from direct blow
  • Pain in muscle (probably from mild pulled muscle)
  • Pain around joint (probably from mild stretched ligament)


  • Reassurance: Bruised muscles or bones can be treated at home.
  • Pain Medicine: For pain relief, give acetaminophen OR ibuprofen as needed. (See Dosage Table). Ibuprofen is more effective for this type of pain.
  • Local Cold: For bruises or swelling, apply a cold pack or ice bag wrapped in a wet cloth to the area for 20 minutes per hour. Repeat for 4 consecutive hours. (Reason: reduce the bleeding and pain)
  • Local Heat: After 48 hours, apply a warm wet washcloth or heating pad for 10 minutes 3 times per day to help absorb the blood.
  • Rest:
    • Rest the injured part as much as possible for 48 hours.
    • For pulled muscles, teach your youngster about stretching exercises and strength training.
  • Expected Course: Pain and swelling usually peak on day 2 or 3. Swelling is usually gone by 7 days. Pain may take 2 weeks to completely resolve.
  • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain is not improving after 3 days
    • Pain lasts over 2 weeks
    • Your child becomes worse
  • And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.


  • This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
  • Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
  • Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
  • Last Revised: 8/1/2011 3:31:07 PM
  • Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
  • Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
If this is an emergency call 911 immediately.

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Swedish Kids Symptom Checker is designed especially for these times. The interactive iPhone application can help you make appropriate decisions on what level of care, if any, is needed and how to provide symptom relief for minor illnesses and injuries you can manage on your own.

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