Metatarsal Fracture in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Metatarsal bones in the foot

A metatarsal fracture is a thin, hairline crack to the fifth metatarsal bone of the foot. The fifth metatarsal is the long bone on the outside of the foot. This type of fracture usually happens from repeated stress on the bones of the foot. Or it can occur 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 and given your child crutches to use to keep weight off his or her foot.

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

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.

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?

  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • 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.
    • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless your doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • 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.
  • If your doctor suggests it, put ice or a cold pack on your child's foot for 10 to 15 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. Keep the cast or splint dry.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Cast and splint care

  • 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. 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 call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has increased or severe pain.
  • Your child's foot is cool, pale, or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in his or her foot and toes.
  • Your child says the cast or splint feels too tight.
  • Your child cannot move his or her toes.
  • Your child has a lot of swelling below the cast or splint.

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

  • The pain does not get better day by day.
  • The skin under your child's cast or splint burns or stings.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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