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Head Injuries in Children

By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Reviewed by: Kelsey Sorvick, RN, Penfield Children’s Center

While bumps and bruises are a part of every child’s life, it is important to pay attention to head injuries, no matter how small.

According to Kidshealth.org, there are two types of head injuries:  external and internal injuries. An external injury usually occurs on the scalp and can appear as a cut or bump. An internal injury can include damage to brain tissue, a broken skull or torn blood vessels.

While most head injuries in children fall into the external category and are not life-threatening, it is important to always consult your child’s physician if you feel he is showing symptoms of a serious head injury. Head injuries can sometimes result in a concussion, which can affect normal brain function.

If my child hits his head, what signs and symptoms should I look for that may show he has a concussion or other serious head injury?

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • A feeling of being numb
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Confusion or issues remembering what happened
  • Head pain
  • Falling asleep or lethargy immediately following the injury
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Bruising around the eyes

Most of the time, a concussion will not cause life-long damage, but it is important to make sure that your child heals from even the most mild concussions. Rest is often the best way to heal from a concussion and that may not always be easy for an active child! After suffering from a concussion, try to keep your child calm for the next two days and limit physical and cognitive activities. Make sure to also speak to your child’s teacher about the situation, as it may be necessary to pick him up early and/or ask for a smaller amount of homework. Keeping your child home from school for a couple days can also help speed up the healing process, as long as he is able to rest in a peaceful environment.

If your child does have a concussion and returns to his normal routine too quickly or re-injures himself, he could be at risk of developing post-concussion syndrome. The Mayo Clinic reports that this syndrome can affect your child’s memory and cause ongoing dizziness and headaches.

How can I protect my child from serious head injuries?

While it might be difficult to completely eliminate your child’s risk of injury, there are steps you can take to help keep him safe.

  • While participating in contact sports, make sure that your child wears an appropriate helmet. He should also always wear a helmet while bike riding, skateboarding and rollerblading. Make sure to consult an expert when purchasing a helmet to ensure it fits properly and is made of materials that will not crack easily.
  • Do you have a new walker in the family? Make sure to toddler-proof your house! Prevent your little one from falling down the stairs by installing baby gates and always make sure windows (especially those low to the ground) are locked.
  • Wood and tile floors are slippery, especially if you have small rugs around the house. By purchasing rugs with rubber bottoms or placing non-slip rubber mats under cloth rugs, you can help ensure they stay in place.
  • Do not leave children in the bath unattended. While this precaution is often discussed to prevent drowning, it can also help reduce head injuries for adventurous kids who think it’s a good idea to stand or jump in the tub.

With a few simple precautions, you as a parent can reduce the chance that your child will suffer from a serious head injury. And, knowing what to do in case he does have an accident can help speed up the recovery process.

What steps do you take to keep your child injury-free?

References:
http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/head-injury.html
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/expert-answers/concussion-in-children/faq-20058282
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/SafetyandtheEnvironment/OutdoorSafety/Pages/Head-injury-prevention-children.aspx

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