Knee Pain or Injury in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Anatomy of the knee, showing thigh bone, kneecap, ligaments, and shin bone

Injuries are a common cause of knee problems. Sudden (acute) injuries may be caused by a direct blow to the knee. They can also be caused by abnormal twisting, bending, or falling on the knee during activities like playing sports. Pain, bruising, or swelling may be severe, and may start within minutes of the injury.

Overuse is another cause of knee pain. Other causes are climbing stairs, kneeling, and other activities that use the knee.

Rest, along with home treatment, often relieves pain and allows the knee to heal. If your child has a serious knee injury, he or she 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 call line 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 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.
  • Be sure your child rests and protects the knee.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's knee for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up your child's sore knee on a pillow when icing it or anytime your child sits or lies down for the next 3 days. Try to keep your child's knee above the level of his or her heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • If your child's knee is not swollen, you can put moist heat or a warm cloth on the knee.
  • If your doctor recommends an elastic bandage, sleeve, or other type of support for your child's knee, make sure your child wears it as directed.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about how much weight your child can put on the leg. Make sure he or she uses crutches as instructed.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions about activity during your child's healing process. If your child can do mild exercise, slowly increase his or her activity.
  • Help your child reach and stay at a healthy weight. Extra weight can strain the joints, especially the knees and hips, and make the pain worse. Losing even a kilogram may help.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has increasing or severe pain.
  • Your child's leg or foot is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child cannot stand or put weight on the knee.
  • Your child's knee looks twisted or bent out of shape.
  • Your child cannot move the knee.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness on or behind the knee.
    • Red streaks leading from the knee.
    • Pus draining from a place on the knee.
    • A fever.

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

  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the knee.
  • Your child has any new symptoms, such as swelling.
  • Your child has bruises from a knee injury that last longer than 2 weeks.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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