Finger Sprain in Children: Care Instructions

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Location of the collateral ligaments, extensor tendons, and flexor tendons in a finger


A sprain is an injury to the tough fibers (ligaments) that connect bone to bone. This injury can happen in joints such as in the finger.

Some sprains stretch the ligaments but don't tear them. More severe sprains can partly or completely tear the ligaments. Sprains can cause pain and swelling. It may take weeks to months before your child's finger can move easily and without pain.

Resting the finger for a short time after the injury can help your child heal. To keep the injured finger in position while it heals, the doctor may have put a splint on it. Or the doctor may have taped the finger to the one next to it. After the pain and swelling have gone down, the doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen your child's finger or more treatment if needed.

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?

  • If the doctor put a splint on the finger, have your child wear the splint as directed. Do not remove it until the doctor says it's okay.
  • If your child's fingers are taped together, make sure that the tape is snug but not so tight that the fingers get numb or tingle. You can loosen the tape if it's too tight. If you need to retape your child's fingers, always put padding between the fingers before putting on the new tape.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's finger for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up your child's hand on a pillow to ice it or anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Have your child try to keep it above the level of the heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it to your child 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.
  • If your doctor recommends exercises, help your child do them as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child's finger is cool or pale or changes color.
  • Your child's finger is tingly, weak, or numb.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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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.