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Arm Pain in Children: Care Instructions


Your child can hurt an arm by using it too much or by injuring it. Your child's forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers are the parts of the arm that are most likely to become painful.

A minor arm injury usually will heal on its own with home treatment to relieve swelling and pain. If your child’s arm doesn’t return to usual movement within 7-10 days, you should follow-up with your family doctor. If your child has a more serious injury causing their arm pain, like a fracture, your child may need tests and treatment.

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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are commonly used for muscle strains or sprains. Follow the directions on the package to make sure you give the correct dosage for your child.
  • Make sure your child rests and protects the arm. Have your child take a break from any activity that may cause pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the arm for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin damp cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up the sore arm on a pillow when icing it or anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Try to keep the arm above the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • If your doctor recommends a sling to support the arm, make sure your child wears it as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's arm or hand is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child cannot use the arm.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks running up or down the arm.
    • Pus draining from an area of the arm.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the arm.

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

  • Your child has swelling and tenderness of their arm that does not lessen within 72 hours.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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