Dislocated Shoulder in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The bones and some of the tissues in the shoulder

When the upper arm comes out of the shoulder socket, it is called a dislocated shoulder.

After the doctor puts the shoulder back in place, he or she may put your child's arm in a sling or shoulder immobilizer. This will keep it from moving.

Exercise and physiotherapy can help your child's shoulder get strong and move normally again. You can also help your child get better with rest and home treatment.

If your child's shoulder keeps coming out of place, talk to your doctor about surgery. It can prevent dislocations.

Your child may have had a sedative to help him or her relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

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 or nurse call line 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?

  • If your doctor put your child's arm in a sling or shoulder immobilizer, make sure your child wears it as directed.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's shoulder for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • You may use warm packs after the first 3 days for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This can ease pain.
  • If your doctor gave your child exercises to do at home, help your child do them exactly as your doctor told you.
  • Do not let your child do anything that makes the pain worse.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your child is very sleepy and you have trouble waking him or her.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child's shoulder dislocates again.
  • Your child's pain gets worse.
  • Your child's hand turns cold or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the arm, hand, or fingers.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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