Broken Ankle in Children: Care Instructions

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Front view of the bones of the ankle

Overview

An ankle may break (fracture) during sports, a fall, or other accidents. Fractures can range from a small, hairline crack, to a bone or bones broken into two or more pieces. Your child's treatment depends on how bad the break is.

Your doctor may have put your child's ankle in a splint or cast to allow it to heal or to keep it stable until you can see another doctor. It may take weeks or months for your child's ankle to heal. You can help your child's ankle heal with some care at home.

Healthy habits can help your child heal. Give your child a variety of healthy foods. And don't smoke around your child.

Your child may have had a sedative to help them relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's ankle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's cast or splint. Keep the cast or splint dry.
  • Follow the cast care instructions your doctor gives you. If your child has a splint, do not take it off unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Prop up your child's leg on pillows in the first few days after the injury. Keep the ankle higher than the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Do not let your child put weight on the ankle unless your doctor tells you to. Your child will have to use crutches or a knee scooter to get around.
  • Make sure your child follows instructions for exercises that can keep your child's leg strong.
  • Ask your child to wiggle their toes often to reduce swelling and stiffness.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has chest pain, is short of breath, or coughs up blood.
  • Your child is very sleepy and is hard to wake up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child's foot is cool or pale or changes color.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the toes.
  • Your child's cast or splint feels too tight.
  • Your child has signs of a blood clot in the leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness or swelling in the leg.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has a problem with their splint or cast.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.