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Metatarsal Fracture in Children: Care Instructions

Skeletal view of metatarsal bones of the foot

Your Care Instructions

A metatarsal fracture is a break or a thin, hairline crack in one of the metatarsal bones of the foot. This type of fracture usually happens from repeated stress on the bones of the foot. Or it can happen when a person jumps or changes direction quickly and twists his or her foot or ankle the wrong way. This fracture is common among dancers because their work involves a lot of jumping, and balancing and turning on one foot.

Treatment depends on how bad the fracture is and where the fracture is on the bone. Your child may or may not have had surgery. Your doctor may have put your child's foot in a cast or splint to keep it stable. Your child may have been given crutches to use to keep weight off his or her foot.

A metatarsal fracture may take from 6 weeks to several months to heal. It is important to give your child's foot time to heal completely, so that he or she does not hurt it again. Do not let your child return to usual activities until your doctor says he or she can. Your doctor may suggest that your child get physiotherapy to help regain strength and range of motion in the foot.

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

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?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If your 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 he or she can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about how much weight your child can put on the foot and when your child can go back to his or her usual activities. If your child was given crutches, be sure he or she uses them as directed.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's foot 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) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up your child's foot on a pillow when you ice it or anytime your child sits or lies down for the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.

Cast and splint care

  • If your child's foot is in a cast or splint, follow the cast or splint care instructions your doctor gives you. If your child has a removable fibreglass walking cast or a splint, do not take it off unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Keep the cast or splint dry. If your child has a removable fibreglass walking cast or a splint, ask your doctor if it is okay to remove it to bathe. Your doctor may want your child to keep it on as much as possible.
  • If you are told to keep your child's cast or splint on, tape a sheet of plastic to cover it when he or she bathes. Or ask your doctor about products that can help keep a cast or splint dry. Water under the cast or splint can cause the skin to itch and hurt.
  • Never cut the cast or let your child stick anything down it to scratch an itch on the leg.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has problems with his or her cast or splint. For example:
    • The skin under the cast or splint is burning or stinging.
    • The cast or splint feels too tight.
    • There is a lot of swelling near the cast or splint. (Some swelling is normal.)
    • Your child has a new fever.
    • There is drainage or a bad smell coming from the cast or splint.
  • Your child has increased or severe pain.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the foot and toes.
  • Your child cannot move his or her toes.
  • Your child's foot turns cold or changes colour.

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

  • The pain does not get better day by day.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.