Head Injuries in Babies and Children – What to Look Out For

Head Injuries in Babies and Children – What to Look Out For

Babies’ and children’s muscles and nervous system are still maturing and when learning how to sit, walk, climb and exploring the world, our little precious ones often fall. Even newborn babies fall down sometimes. Most often when they are left unattended on the changing table or the bed. Although they are not very mobile yet, it is possible, when a baby is crying or kicking its legs to slide and fall over, or roll over for the first time (to their parent’s surprise) and end up on the floor. At an early age the child’s head is comparatively bigger and heavier, so if the child falls down, it goes head first. In case of accident, it is very important for the parent to stay calm so they can judge how serious is the injury.

Injuries in little children rarely are dangerous because their bones are more flexible, and the bone sutures and the fontanelle mitigates the impact. However, when a child falls from a higher surface or receives a high-speed blow, the risk of a serious head and back injury is considerable. For example, falling from a swing or a climbing frame, or being in a car accident, etc. Damage to the cerebrum (the largest part of the brain) due to a head injury can be concussion, cerebral contusion (bruise of the brain tissue) and intracranial haemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull/brain). The last two are life-threatening. The most common injury at early age is concussion. The child may loose consciousness for a short period, be confused, vomit, have difficulty breathing, bleed (from the nose, ears, mouth), have a seizure. These require immediate medical attention and it is not recommended to move the child in any way

If the child is conscious, starts crying and even gets up on its own after the impact, check for any surface injuries, bruises, skull deformity, bleeding, swelling. Pay attention if the child is irritable, shows unnatural behaviour, experiences drowsiness, also watch for follow-up vomiting, loss of balance, dizziness, sensitivity to light, disorientation. Look for any of these symptoms for about 3 – 4 days, and if any appear, it is recommended to visit a doctor. Typically, in cases of concussion symptoms may last up to 2 – 3 weeks, but no lasting brain changes are observed. During this period be more careful and avoid strong light, noise, and in older children, avoid the use of phones, tablets, and prolonged watching of TV.

What you can do

Before the specialised medical team arrives you can help the child by following some rules. For example, if the child is lying down, is conscious, but is vomiting, turn it on one side (on its shoulder). If there is swelling (oedema), you may place ice on top of the swollen place. Do not apply it directly on the skin, wrap it in a towel first. You can also apply a cold patch or wet towel (for no more than 20 minutes). In case of bleeding from an open wound, apply direct pressure on the wound with tightening bandage, piece of cloth or hands. If there is a bleeding from an ear, do NOT apply pressure and do NOT place anything in the ear. Leave the blood leak out. In case of nose bleeding, tilt (bend) the child’s head forward towards the chest to avoid any blood aspiration. In case of seizure or loss of consciousness, do not move the child and wait for the medical team to arrive.

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