Recognizing and treating a broken arm

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A broken arm can be painful but rarely a life-threatening emergency. It is important to learn how to recognize a broken arm in order to decide how to respond to it appropriately. This injury is quite among after a fall or when engaged in contact sports.

Signs and symptoms of a broken arm

broken arm
A splint must be applied to a broken arm.

Depending on the cause of the injury, whether after a fall, vehicular accident or sports injuries, these are the common signs and symptoms of a broken arm.

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Deformity
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Limited mobility on the affected arm
  • Injured skin with visible bone

Treating a broken arm

Depending on the severity of the broken arm, there are first aid measures that you can perform in order to minimize the damage.

  1. It is important to be safe by ensuring that the victim is in a safe location. Always follow the universal precautions and use personal protective gear if available.
  2. Check the ABC (airway, breathing and circulation). Take note that a broken arm can be considered as distracting injuries and most of the time, they are usually worse.
  3. If bleeding is present, it is important to control the bleeding.
  4. Check for other injuries. In case the victim has signs of injury to the neck, head or back, avoid moving the victim.
  5. If there is broken skin, cover it using a sterile bandage. If required, the wound must be rinsed and use sterile water or saline solution.
  6. For severe cases, call for emergency assistance. While waiting for the medical team to arrive, the victim must be immobilized. In case an ambulance is not available, it is important to splint the broken arm. Make sure that you will immobilize the joints above and beneath the affected arm. Just avoid wrapping the arm too tight.
  7. Apply ice on the affected arm in order to minimize the swelling. Place a towel or cloth between the ice and skin to prevent frostbite from developing. Leave the ice on the affected part for 15 minutes and then remove.

Useful tips when dealing with a broken arm

Always remember that the victim must not be moved if there is suspected neck, head or back injuries. Do not attempt to straighten a broken arm or change its position unless the hand or arm with the injury is cold, numb, blue in color or paralyzed. Only do so in order to restore the deformed arm to its anatomical position.

Call for emergency assistance if there is a broken leg higher than the knee, broken pelvis, broken hip, neck or back injury as well as a head injury. When splinting the broken arm, always make sure that the sling can fully support the weight of the arm and wrap a swatch around the torso of the individual to immobilize the broken arm.

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