A child can receive a sprained ankle from athletic activities, playground injuries, from jumping games, or simply from clowning around. Ankle sprains can range from very mild to severe, and the degree of discomfort can vary from one individual to another. If your child comes home with a sprained ankle, you may be able to treat it at home. However, some sprains can be severe and should be seen by your pediatrician.
Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle
Sprains are generally classed in three degrees, with the symptoms determining the degree of injury.
- First-degree sprain – with minimal swelling, mild pain, and some discomfort jumping or jogging. Full recovery occurs in 2 to 10 days.
- Second-degree sprain – with significant swelling and bruising, moderate pain, difficulty walking, and loss of motion in the ankle. Full use of the ankle may take 2 or more weeks.
- Third-degree sprain – with severe swelling, significant pain, extreme loss of motion, and severe pain with walking. Recovery is slow and may require physical therapy or surgery for normal use of the ankle.
Home Treatment of Children’s Ankle Sprains
Mild sprains can be treated at home if you are reasonably sure that there are no damaged ligaments or other issues. The R.I.C.E. method of rest, icing, compression, and elevation can be used to aid healing. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be used for pain, in a dosage that is suitable for the child’s age. Wrapping the ankle with an elastic bandage or using an ankle brace can help stabilize the joint while walking. Gentle exercises to strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility can be done to facilitate healing.
When a Sprained Ankle Needs Additional Treatment
If a sprained ankle produces significant pain and impacts walking, it may involve torn ligaments on the inside of the ankle that heal more slowly. Your child may have to use crutches to get around or may need additional pain medication, which your pediatrician can prescribe. In some cases, a severe sprain may require surgery to repair the ligament. Your pediatrician may determine that a sprain requires additional treatment and will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. If the sprain seems serious when it happens, you may want to take your child to a clinic like Emergency Care Dynamics rather than trying to fix it yourself.
Although an ankle sprain can be caused significant discomfort, this type of injury generally heals rapidly with the right treatment. However, if pain or swelling is severe, you should make an appointment with your pediatrician for further treatment. Most ankle sprains will heal in a few days. Your child will be back to normal activities without further problems.