General Hands

Sprains in Toddlers and Babies

As a parent, you know that toddlers and babies can move around in ways that sometimes seem very unusual to the adults who are observing them. And every so often, they will trip or fall, or twist in a way that causes an injury. You may be observing your child and asking yourself, “How does he do that without spraining something?”

The fact is, young children hardly ever develop sprains. They are actually far more likely to break a bone, since bones in babies and toddlers are much weaker than ligaments. That said, sprains, although rare, can happen.

Identifying a Sprain in Your Toddler or Baby

Symptoms of a sprain, in addition to obvious pain, can include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Limping
  • Reluctance to walk, move or be touched

Often, it can be hard to tell whether the problem is a sprain or a break, since the symptoms can be quite similar. Sprains will generally heal on their own, but if you suspect a break, you should see your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Treating a Minor Sprain

If you think that your toddler or baby has experienced a sprain, you should first try to get the child to remain still – and yes, we do know how difficult that can be. Perhaps a favorite toy or DVD would be in order.

Next, keep the wrist or arm elevated by propping it up on a cushion, and apply cold treatments to the affected area. You should never apply ice directly to a sprain, so if you are using ice, wrap it in a towel first. There are also medical cold packs that you can keep in your freezer for just such an emergency. And in a pinch, a bag of frozen vegetables will serve the purpose. Make sure that you dont use cold compresses for any more than ten minutes at a time.

If the child is in a good deal of discomfort, you can use over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Keep in mind, though, that aspirin is not recommended for children.

Preventing Sprains

Obviously, you do not want your child to be hurt. We sincerely hope that you have already installed baby gates at the top and foot of your stairs, but if you havent, please do so immediately. Also, make sure that floors (especially play areas) are kept as free as is reasonably possible from any tripping hazards.

Also, never buy shoes that you think your child will “grow into.” It is shocking how many parents do this, but think about it – how well would you walk in shoes that are a couple of sizes too big? Children are meant to wear shoes that fit their feet now, not shoes that will fit them a month or two down the road.

It is far better to prevent a sprain than it is to deal with it once it has occurred, so follow these basic safety measures so that your child can be protected from the possibility of a painful sprain.