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Fractures (broken bones): First aid

Updated: 2024-03-27


A fracture is a broken bone. It needs medical care. If the broken bone is the result of major trauma or injury, call 911 or your local emergency number.

When to seek emergency help

Also call for emergency help if:

  • The person with the broken bone doesn't respond to you, isn't breathing or isn't moving. Call 911. Then begin CPR if there's no breathing or heartbeat.
  • There's heavy bleeding.
  • Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
  • The limb or joint appears deformed.
  • The bone has broken the skin and is sticking out.
  • The toe of the injured leg or the finger of the injured arm is numb or discolored at the tip.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.


To avoid making the injury worse, don't move the person unless you must. Take these actions right away while waiting for medical help:

  • Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
  • Keep the injured area from moving. Don't try to realign the bone or push a bone that's sticking out back in. If you've been trained in how to splint and medical help isn't available right away, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce pain.
  • Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. Don't apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, a piece of cloth or some other material.
  • Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk. If you can, raise the legs.