What is a Fracture?

Fractures are breaks, cracks, or chips in a bone. Children commonly sustain limb fractures after trauma e.g. a fall from the monkey bars at the playground, during a soccer game or a road traffic accident. Fractures may occur in any bone of the body but upper limb fractures are the most common.

How Do You Know if It’s Fractured?

If your child has a fracture, your child may complain of pain and you may notice swelling at the site of injury. The limb with the fractured bone may also appear swollen or deformed. Your child may have difficulty moving the affected limb. If this is a bone in the lower limbs, your child may have difficulty weight-bearing / standing. Children's bones are often more pliable and they may sustain partial fractures through the bone shaft. These partial fractures are called greenstick fractures and can only be diagnosed with an X-ray.

Fractures in infants or toddlers can be more difficult to detect. They may cry and not use the affected limb, despite there being no obvious sign of injury.

If you are not sure if your child has sustained a fracture, it is advisable to see a doctor and obtain an X-ray of the affected area. An x-ray is recommended prior to massage or manipulation which can worsen the fracture (e.g. by a Chinese physician or Sinseh).

Related: Children's Hand Conditions And Injuries

What To Do if You Suspect a Fracture


Do not move a child whose injury involves the neck or back, unless he or she is in imminent danger. Movement can cause serious nerve damage. Call 995 for an ambulance. If the child must be moved, the neck and back must be completely immobilised first, ideally with at least one other person assisting you. Keeping the head, neck, and back in alignment, move the child together as a unit.



Related: Preventing Falls for Babies and Toddlers


If you suspect your child has a mild fracture of the arm, wrist or hand, make a sling to support the fractured area:

  1. Find a large piece of cloth and fold it into the shape of a triangle.

  2. Gently slide the wide part of the triangle under the injured arm.

  3. Tie the loose ends around the neck. Make sure the sling is tied tight enough to hold the arm snugly but not so tightly that blood flow is restricted.

  4. If a bone in the forearm or wrist is fractured, gently support the injured area and place the lower arm on a folded newspaper or magazine padded with a towel or pillow. This creates a splint that immobilises and protects the broken bone.

  5. Tie the splint around the arm using cloth strips; place the strips on either side of the injured area.

  6. After securing the splint, make a sling to support the arm.

  7. See a doctor immediately to check for possible damage to the nerves or blood vessels. Your child may also need a cast of the fractured bone.

  8. Give your child some pain relief if required (e.g. paracetamol) - please consult your doctor for the right dosage for your child.

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