broken bone: learn first aid

Adult first aid for someone who has a broken bone or fracture including signs, symptoms and what to do in an emergency.

What is a broken bone?

A broken bone and a fracture are the same thing. The bone could be cracked, snapped, crushed or broken into a few pieces. No matter how the bone is broken, the first aid steps to help are the same.

Signs and symptoms of a broken bone

Someone may have a broken bone (also known as a fracture) if they are in a lot of pain, or are lying in an unnatural position, following a fall or a blow from an object. In severe cases, the limb may be misshapen or have an open wound.

First aid steps for someone with a broken bone

1. Support the injury with their hand, or use a cushion or items of clothing to prevent unnecessary movement.

Supporting the injury may help relieve pain and prevent further damage. Support the limb above and below the injury if possible.

2.  Take or send the person to hospital.

Call 999 if the person is unable to move for themselves or is in a lot of pain.

3. Continue supporting the injury until the person receives medical help.

Ugo's story will help you learn what to do if someone has broken a bone.

Ugo shares how he helped his son Reuben when he fell. Skip to 0:43 seconds for key first aid steps.

Common questions about first aid for someone who may have a broken bone

How do I support a broken bone?

Do not move it unnecessarily. Place soft padding such as clothing or blankets around the limb to align it, if you can, but do not force it.

Continue to support the broken bone until help arrives.

If a bone looks unnatural or dislocated, should I put it back in place?

No. If there is a dislocation or the limb looks broken, medical professionals will take care of it. Never attempt to put dislocations back in place as you may cause further damage.

  What do I do if the person won’t let me support the injury?

Try to encourage them to support the injury themselves by holding it. Cushions or clothing can also be used to support the injury.

What if everything looks normal and they only have a bruise?

It is usually impossible to differentiate between a broken bone and a sprain or strain without an X-ray. If you are in any doubt about the severity of the injury, seek medical advice.

The person can move their limb or stand on it. Does this mean they probably haven't got a broken bone?

Not necessarily. The only accurate way to diagnose a broken bone is to X-ray it. The person may still have a broken bone, even if they can move their limb. If the injury causes pain or discomfort and symptoms do not improve, seek medical advice.


For more information on what to do with a broken bone, visit the NHS website. During life-threatening emergencies, call 999, or for non-emergency medical help, call 111.

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