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Pulled Elbow in Children


A pulled elbow is an injury that occurs when one of the elbow bones slips out of its normal place. It is also called a nursemaid's elbow. The bones of the elbow are held together and supported by ligaments. In children, these ligaments may still be weak. A forceful stretching of the elbow causes the radius to slip out of the ligament that supports it. This causes the ligament to slide over the tip of the bone and get trapped inside the joint. A pulled elbow is the most common injury of the upper limb in children under 6 years old.



  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much your child should take and how often he should take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent another pulled elbow:

  • Do not swing your child by the hands, wrists, or forearms.
  • Do not pull your child by his hand.
  • Do not lift your child by his hand, wrist, or forearm. Hold him under his arms or around his body when you lift him.

Splint or sling:

Healthcare providers may want your child to limit moving his elbow for some time. A sling or splint may be used to support his elbow area and help make him feel more comfortable. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information on using a splint or sling.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child refuses to move his arm again.
  • Your child's pain does not go away or comes back.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has increased pain on the affected elbow.
  • Your child gets another pulled elbow.
  • Your child's arm or hand feels numb and tingly.
  • Your child's skin or fingernails become swollen, cold, or turn white or blue.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Pulled Elbow in Children (Discharge Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.