What to Do If You Break a Bone

Fractures are common, especially in the young and the elderly. Some breaks are more severe than others, but all fractures require emergency medical attention.

Is It Broken?

Sometimes you will know immediately that a bone is broken. If you suspect an injury to the head, neck, or back or if a bone is protruding through the skin, call 911 and do not move. Do not try pushing a bone back into place and do not wash the wound if a bone is sticking out.

You can often tell that a bone is broken if the injured area is deformed. However, not all fractures are obvious. Find out whether the bone may be broken by asking these questions:

  1. Did you hear a snap or grind during the injury?
  2. Is there intense pain at the injury site and is the area difficult to move?
  3. Is there bruising, deformity, swelling, or tenderness?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, go to an emergency center.

On the Way to the ER

If the injury does not involve the head, neck, or back and there is not a bone protruding from the skin—in which case you need to call 911 and not move—make your way to an emergency center.

Before heading out, gently remove the clothing from the area and apply an ice pack wrapped in cloth. Try to keep the injured area still and in the same position. You can stabilize the injury by making a temporary splint. Gently place cardboard or folded newspaper under the injured limb and carefully wrap it with cloth, bandages, or tape. Do not eat or drink anything just in case you need surgery. Be sure to have a capable driver take you to the emergency room. If loss of consciousness or breath occurs, someone needs to call 911 and begin CPR.

If you break a bone, follow the advice above, take the necessary precautions, and visit your nearest St. Luke's Health community emergency center for 24-hour medical service with less wait.

KidsHealth | First Aid: Broken Bones
Healthline | First Aid for Broken Bones and Fractures

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