Swinging or lifting a toddler by the arm has been described by medical experts as a risky move that can lead to elbow dislocation or severe injuries.
The experts explained that babies’ bones are fragile and that lifting them either with one hand or with both hands can exert undue pressure on the elbow.
According to them, lifting a child off the floor with one hand in such a way that the body weight rests on that particular arm; pulling a baby by the hands to a sitting position from a lying down position, or even grabbing a child by one arm to prevent a fall, are all dangerous.
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A Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Benin, Edo State, Augustine Omoigberale, said children who are lifted by the arms are at higher risk of suffering a common injury known as ‘nursemaid’s elbow’.
Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, Prof. Omoigberale explained that a ‘nursemaid’s elbow’ occurs when a child is pulled up by the fingers or an outstretched arm, adding that one of the bones in the forearm may slip out of where it is normally attached to at the elbow joint.
The professor advised people to always carry babies by their armpits simultaneously with two arms to avoid injury.
He said, “In medical language, it is called ‘annular ligament displacement’. The term ‘nursemaid’s elbow’ came about because nannies that look after children are usually blamed for such incidents.
“The ligament that binds the two bones together is either displayed in mild cases or torn in severe cases. ‘Nursemaid’s elbow’ is common in children between six months and 5 years.
“The pain can move from mild to severe. The major symptom is that the baby will have his hand on the body or on his or her thigh. It is always advisable to carry babies by their armpits simultaneously with your two hands to avoid this injury.”
According to Cleveland Clinic, in its online portal, ‘Nursemaid’s elbow’ is a benign problem that can be painful for the child.
It noted that it tends to happen because toddlers’ bones and ligaments are still immature and developing.
In a report published by Pediatric Orthopedics, an expert, Dr. Sean Waldron, said ‘nursemaid’s elbow’ symptoms include pain, sobbing, gripping the damaged elbow, and refusal to use the affected arm.
He, however, said there might be no evident swelling or deformity.
The orthopaedic surgeon noted that there are cases where the child’s bones will naturally move back into place.
“It is important to have your child checked out by the doctor to make sure the condition is completely healed and to prevent further injury. If the injury is not resolved by itself, your child’s doctor will need to perform a simple manoeuvre to move the elbow back into place.
“Fortunately, this is a pretty easy injury to avoid, but it falls on the parent or caretaker. If your child needs to be picked up, there are many safer options, such as under the armpits. No matter how badly your child wants you to swing them, just say “no” and leave the swinging to the jungle gym.”
Meanwhile, while speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, a Senior Registrar at the Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto State, Dr. Ikemesit Inoh, said grievous injury can be caused by pulling or grabbing a child by the hands too quickly, jerking the arm or rolling over a child in bed awkwardly.
He said, “Once you lift by only one hand, the weight tends to outweigh whatever it is that is holding it at the joint, especially the ligaments at those joints.
“The ones I have personally experienced are usually dislocations at the shoulder. Sometimes, you could actually have dislocations occurring at the elbow depending on how the child was lifted. This ‘nursemaid’s elbow’ occurs when you lift a child by one hand or both, but the more common one is when you lift with one hand.
“If you lift a child just by one hand, you may not be in full control of the child and could easily slip off. So, it is usually advisable to lift a child by the trunk.
“As you are lifting by the trunk, you lift it in such a way that your hand is under the armpit, so you tend to hold the child together by lifting the child like that.”