Nursemaid's Elbow in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Your child has an injury called nursemaid's elbow. Nursemaid's elbow occurs when one of the bones in the forearm slips out of position at the elbow. It can happen during play or when an adult pulls a child up over a curb or other obstacle. It also can happen when a child's hand is pulled through the sleeve of a sweater or coat. Nursemaid's elbow is common in children between ages 1 and 4. As children grow, their arms get stronger and they no longer get this type of injury.

The doctor may have moved the elbow back in place. This injury usually heals quickly and without permanent damage.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Ask your doctor if you can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

To prevent nursemaid's elbow:

  • Do not pull a child's straightened arm when playing or walking hand in hand.
  • Do not lift or swing a child by the hands or forearms.
  • Do not pull a child's arm through the arm of a top or sweater. Pull clothing over the arm.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child cannot bend or straighten an arm or refuses to move it.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.