Caring for a Toddler Leg Injury

Toddlers may develop a leg injury.

A toddler leg injury can be very stressful for parents. Knowing what to do to prevent injuries is important, but effectively handling these occurrences can help your child and keep you calm in a crisis.

Types of Toddler Leg Injury

Toddlers love exploring the world around them, but they haven't quite gained the experience needed to avoid risky situations. Injuries of some type should be expected. Their bones are still flexible and can withstand shock, but -- with enough pressure -- a toddler injury can lead to a broken bone.

Examples of leg injuries commonly occurring in toddlers include the following:

  • Minor bruises
  • Strains or muscle pulls with torn muscle fibers
  • Sprains with torn ligaments
  • Bone dislocations
  • Bone fractures

The severity of the injury may not be apparent right away; you need to monitor your child closely to determine if your child needs professional medical attention. Continued participation in normal activities indicates a less serious injury; however, refusal or inability to move the leg or complaints of pain may mean a more serious issue.

When Should You Go to the Doctor?

Your toddler may not be able to fully articulate his or her symptoms after an injury, so whether you take your child to the doctor or to the emergency room will largely depend on what you observe. Some signs that signal a doctor's visit might be in order include the following:

  • Complaints of pain from your child
  • Complaints from the child about moving the leg
  • Swelling of the injured area
  • Bruising beyond the injury site
  • Bleeding that won't stop
  • Gaping wound that looks like it may need stitches
  • Limping when walking

If your child is less than one year old, you should take your toddler to the doctor after any leg injury - even if none of the symptoms listed above are present.

Home Care for Leg Injuries

Even if you take your child to the doctor, you should be aware of basic first aid that you can use to manage a toddler leg injury. In some cases, a quick response can limit the damage created by the injury and may lessen the pain.

Basic Guidelines for First Aid at Home

Basic first aid guidelines include the following:

  • Use Ice: An ice pack can reduce swelling. If you don't have an ice pack handy, ice cubes in a towel or zipper plastic bag is an effective supplement. Cover with a towel to prevent frostbite.
  • Compression: An elastic bandage wrapped around the injured area can also decrease the swelling. The bandage should not be too tight because it could become painful.
  • Elevation: Another way to improve both pain and swelling is to elevate the injured leg. Placing the leg on a pillow is ideal but only if your child will remain still. Keeping the child as still as possible would also be helpful.
  • Support: If there is an obvious break, you can use padding or your hands to support the limb and to keep it from moving as you take your child to the doctor.
  • Prevent infection: Cover a wound with a sterile dressing to control the bleeding and to prevent infection.

Additional Cautions

In addition to the above advice, heed the following cautions.

  • If it is an open wound with a visible broken bone, do not place pressure on the bone while trying to control the bleeding.
  • Do not attempt to straighten out a twisted leg.

Avoiding Toddler Injuries

While some injuries may be inevitable, some things can lessen the risk. Childproofing your home completely and closely supervising your toddler are important first steps. Planning safe toddler activities ahead of time allows your child structured activity in the home. As your toddler grows and participates in more activities, you should make sure that you child wears appropriate safety gear. You may be able to prevent some leg injuries by implementing these steps.

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Caring for a Toddler Leg Injury