Broken Elbow in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A fractured elbow means that a bone has broken in or near the joint. Broken bones (fractures) can range from a small, hairline crack, to a bone or bones broken into two or more pieces. Your child's treatment depends on how bad the break is.

The doctor may have put your child's arm in a cast or splint to allow the elbow to heal or to keep it stable until you see another doctor. Your child also may wear a sling to help support the arm. It may take weeks or months for your child's elbow to heal. You can help it heal with some care at home.

Healthy habits can help your child heal. Give your child a variety of healthy foods. And don't smoke around him or her.

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?

  • Follow the cast care instructions the doctor gives you. If your child has a splint, do not take it off unless the doctor tells you to.
  • Be safe with medicines. 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 the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Help your child prop up the arm on pillows when he or she sits or lies down in the first few days after the injury. Keep the elbow higher than the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Help your child follow instructions for exercises to keep the arm strong.
  • Have your child wiggle his or her fingers and wrist often to reduce swelling and stiffness.

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 has increased or severe pain.
  • Your child's hand is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in his or her hand or fingers.
  • Your child's cast or splint feels too tight.
  • Your child cannot move his or her fingers or has trouble moving the fingers.
  • The skin under your child's cast or splint is burning or stinging.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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