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Ankle Sprain in Children


An ankle sprain

happens when 1 or more ligaments in your child's ankle joint stretch or tear. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect bones. Ligaments support your child's joints and keep the bones in place.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Trouble moving the ankle or foot
  • Pain when your child touches or puts weight on the ankle
  • Bruised, swollen, or misshapen ankle

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has severe pain in his or her ankle.
  • Your child's foot or toes are cold or numb.
  • Your child's ankle becomes more weak or unstable (wobbly).
  • Your child cannot put any weight on the ankle or foot.
  • Your child's swelling has increased or returned.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child's pain does not go away, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for your child's ankle sprain

may include any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair or replace a torn ligament if your child's sprain does not heal with other treatments. Your child's healthcare provider may use screws to attach the bones in the ankle together. The screws may help support your child's ankle and make it stable. Ask for more information about surgery to treat your child's ankle sprain.

Manage your child's ankle sprain:

  • Use support devices, such as a brace, cast, or splint, to limit your child's movement and protect the joint. Your child may need to use crutches to decrease pain as he or she moves around.
  • Help your child rest his or her ankle. Ask when your child can return to his or her usual activities or sports.
  • Apply ice on your child's ankle for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Compress your child's ankle. Ask if you should wrap an elastic bandage around your child's injured ligament. An elastic bandage provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so the joint can heal. Wear as long as directed.
    How to Wrap an Elastic Bandage
  • Elevate your child's ankle above the level of the heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your child's ankle on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Leg (Child)
  • Take your child to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches your child exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.