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The Dangers of Picking Children Up by Their Hands

author image Brenna Davis
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.
The Dangers of Picking Children Up by Their Hands
Young children are susceptible to nursemaid's elbow. Photo Credit Feverpitched/iStock/Getty Images

Many parents pick up their children by their hands either while playing or because it's convenient. Although some children think it's fun to be picked up by their hands, the practice is a dangerous one that parents should avoid. Children might suffer a dislocated elbow, a head injury or hand and finger injuries, according to pediatrician William Sears in his book, "The Portable Pediatrician."

Nursemaid's Elbow

Sears explains that nursemaid's elbow is a common childhood injury and the biggest risk of picking children up by their hands. Children under 5 are especially susceptible, but the website Kidshealth explains that older children can develop the condition as well. Nursemaid's elbow occurs when the joint of the elbow is partially dislocated. The pressure of picking children up by their hands or swinging them by their arms can cause the elbow ligament to slip, causing dislocation. The condition is very painful, and your doctor may need to pop your child's elbow back into place to treat it.

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Head Injuries

When caregivers pick children up by their hands, the child must adjust her head to match the forward-pulling pressure, according to the book "Biology: Life on Earth With Physiology." Young babies without good head control may swing their heads too far forward or backward. They can also injure muscles in their necks. Older children can also suffer head injuries when they move their heads as they are being picked up.

Shoulder Injuries

When parents pick their children up vertically, rather than using their hands to pull them forward, they place pressure on the child's shoulder, according to the textbook "Health, Safety and Nutrition for the Young Child." This can damage the muscles around the shoulder and, in rare cases, a painful dislocated shoulder.

Hand Injuries

Parents frequently pick their children up by their hands because it's fast and convenient. Thus when they do so they may grab or pull on the child's fingers. This can result in broken or dislocated fingers, bruised nails and other injuries. Extreme pressure on the hand, particularly if the wrist is bent, might injure the child's wrist, Sears explains.

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  • "The Portable Pediatrician"; William Sears, M.D., et al.; 2011
  • "Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology"; Gerald Audesirk, et al.; 2008
  • "Health, Safety and Nutrition for the Young Child"; Lynn R. Marotz; 2011
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