First Aid

Strains are injuries to muscle or tendons (which connect muscle to bone) due to overstretching. Sprains involve a stretch or a partial tear of ligaments (which connect two bones). Sprains and strains happen more often in teens than in younger children.

Signs and Symptoms

  • pain in the joint or muscle
  • swelling and bruising
  • warmth and redness of the injured area
  • trouble moving the injured part

What to Do

  • Make sure your child stops activity right away.
  • Think R.I.C.E. for the first 48 hours after the injury:
    • Rest: Rest the injured part until it's less painful.
    • Ice: Wrap an icepack or cold compress in a towel and place over the injured part immediately. Continue for no more than 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day.
    • Compression: Support the injured part with an elastic compression bandage for at least 2 days.
    • Elevation: Raise the injured part above heart level to decrease swelling.
  • Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain and swelling.

Get Emergency Medical Care if Your Child Has:

  • severe pain when the injured part is touched or moved
  • continued trouble bearing weight
  • more bruising
  • numbness or a feeling of "pins and needles" in the injured area
  • a limb that looks "bent" or misshapen
  • signs of infection (increased warmth, redness, streaks, swelling, and pain)
  • a strain or sprain that doesn't seem to be improving after 5 to 7 days

Think Prevention!

Teach kids to warm up properly and to stretch before and after exercising or participating in any sport, and make sure they always wear appropriate protective equipment.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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