Head Injuries In Children – Warning Signs And First Aid
Has your busy body toddler fallen again? Are you worried this time it might not be a minor bump? Before getting into details of the different kinds of head injuries and how to prevent them, let us first examine if you need to take your child to the ER.
Head Injury Warning Signs In Children
However serious you might think the injury is, the first and most important step is to relax and be calm. Unless it was a really major blow, your child is most certainly going to be safe. That said, it is important to take your child to the doctor if your child is:
Unconscious or unresponsive, even for a few seconds
Bleeding from nose or ears
Vomiting more than twice after the fall
Complaining of a head ache, that does not reduce with time
Appearing sluggish, confused and disoriented
Crying inconsolably, or is being fussy without any apparent reason
You can see that the wound is obviously serious
While every fall doesn’t warrant a doctor visit, always trust your instincts. If you think that your child is not his/her usual self after a head injury, then do not wait for any signs. Take him/her to the doctor. It cannot do any harm, and there is a chance it might actually mitigate a potential harm.
Types Of Head Injuries
Now let us take a step back and understand head injuries better.
There are two types of injuries that can happen – external and internal.
External Head Injuries
Just like any other part of the body, the skin on your child’s head (scalp) covers a large number of blood vessels. During any minor fall, it is usually only the scalp that gets injured. Because of the abundance of blood vessels here, even a small cut can mean lot of blood – this looks scary, but thankfully it is more superficial than internal injuries. If there is no cut, then there could be blood and fluid accumulation under the skin. This is what we call as a head bump – painful, but not very threatening.
As is with any other thing, you need to trust your instincts and take the best call. If you do not suspect anything unusual with your child’s behavior, breathing, walking and talking, there is apparently not any reason to panic and worry. You can let you child sleep unless the doctor has advised otherwise
Internal Head Injuries
Before you suspect an internal injury, please understand that our body anatomy is such that the brain is very well protected from damage. Our brains are encased within hard skull and cushiony Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). However, if the blow to the head was very strong, it can lead to a fracture in the skull, tear blood vessels in the brain or move the brain causing nerve damage. This is as dangerous as it sounds and can be life threatening. This is why your child’s doctor might want to do CAT scan to rule out internal bleeding in case of major head blows. In case you do feel that the child is showing some signs of internal injury, it would be wise to consult a doctor
Brain injuries can lead to concussion. The degree of concussion usually depends on the speed with which the head got hit, the age and size of the kid and the surface on which the head was hit. Most mild concussions would be sorted out within a week or two, but during this period the child should not be exposed to any head trauma and a close observation would be required. If the concussion is serious, then the doctor will suggest a course of action depending on your child’s symptoms and condition.
First Aid For Head Injuries In Children
Irrespective of whether you have to take your child to hospital or not, there are few things you need to do at home:
If your child is unconscious, take utmost care not to move the baby’s head and neck when transferring him to the vehicle. Ideally, you should wait for an ambulance if the baby is majorly hurt as there could be other injuries or broken bones, especially in the back or neck
If your child complaints of head ache, but seems otherwise fine, DO NOT give him any pain medication. It is very important to watch out how the symptoms change over time. You might miss a worsening pain if you give any medication – without doctor’s advice – to suppress it
If there is a head bump, use a cold compress in the area until swelling comes down. You can pack ice in a towel (or socks) and use it to compress or use a pack of frozen peas. It is always a good idea to buy a reusable ice pack and keep it in the freezer. Never use the ice directly on skin
If there is bleeding, cover the cut with it with a clean cloth or sterile bandage. Do not try to clean the wound yourself. If there is any object stuck on the wound, do not try to remove it
Prevention Of Head Injuries In Children
The main cause of head injuries is falls. This could be from furniture (like sofa or bed) or from a standing position. The child can also get hit on their head on furniture corners during a run. Many of the head blows can be prevented by:
Child proofing your housestart by cushioning the corners of the table and other furniture. There are many products available in the market for childproofing the house. But you can also use lots of cotton wool and duct tape to get the same effect
Encourage safe sport-Encouraging your child to wear a helmet, especially when cycling or playing in the park. Blows from balls etc have been the causes of head injuries for long
Ensuring your child is always tucked into the baby seat during car journeys. For older kids, use the cars’ seat belts
If you decide not to take your kid to a doctor, make sure to keep him on a watch for a day atleast – to ensure new symptoms do not appear and old symptoms do not get worse.
And most importantly, do not restrict your child’s movements fearing a fall (we can all be paranoid parents!).Let them run, jump and play – they might fall, but they will also learn how to get up and balance themselves better!