Preventing Nursemaid’s Elbow

Posted on by admin | in Nanny

Nursemaid’s elbow, also commonly known as pulled elbow or its medical term, radial head subluxation, is a common childhood injury typically affecting children who are between the ages of 1 and 4.

Like the name implies, in many cases of nursemaid’s elbow, the child’s caregiver plays a role in the injury. With nursemaid’s elbow, the child’s caregiver partially dislocates the child’s elbow. This is typically an accidental injury that happens during play or when a caregiver picks up a child the wrong way.

While the injury is painful, it is short-term and can be quickly fixed by a medical professional. Pediatricians or hospital emergency room physicians can slip the bone back into its correct place. Oftentimes this procedure can even be done without pain medication. Once the bones are put back into place, the pain and discomfort subsides.

Nursemaid’s elbow is common in young children because their ligaments are loose and their bones aren’t yet fully formed. This combination makes young children especially susceptible to having bones slip out of place.

Parents and caregivers can reduce the chance of the children developing nursemaid’s elbow by:

  • Always lifting a child from under his armpits. When a child is picked up by his hands or wrists, it can put stress on the elbows which can result in dislocation. If a child is sitting on the floor resisting your efforts to leave the room, instead of pulling the child up by the hand or wrist, bend down and pick up the child from under his armpits.
  • Never swing a child by the wrists or hands. While many parents and caregivers enjoy taking a child’s hand and swinging him as he walks in-between them or swinging a toddler around in circles by his arms, doing so can result in nursemaid’s elbow. Many parents and caregivers are unaware that swinging a child by the wrists or hands can really harm the child.  Educate parents and caregivers in your network about the danger of swinging a child by the wrists or hands.
  • Never jerk or yank a child’s arm. Pulling or grabbing a child by the hand can cause dislocation.  It doesn’t take much force for a child’s elbow to be pulled out of place. Encourage parents and caregivers you know to always take and hold a child’s hand gently.
  • Discourage breaking falls with extended arms. While it’s natural to extend your arms to break a fall, discouraging children from doing so can reduce the risk of nursemaid’s elbow.

While a parent or caregiver may not be able to tell that a child has nursemaid’s elbow by simply looking at the child’s arm, other signs may point to this common childhood injury. If a child refuses to use an arm or keeps an arm in a fixed position, he could be suffering from nursemaid’s elbow and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

While sometimes nursemaid’s elbow can be prevented, other times, like when a child rolls on his arm the wrong way in his crib or bed, it can’t be. Some children are prone to developing nursemaid’s elbow and those who are may experience the injury several times throughout their childhood.

When parents and caregivers avoid tugging, swinging and jerking children’s arms and hands, they’re doing all that they can do to reduce the risk that the children in their care will develop this painful, but temporary injury.

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