Children are most likely to encounter head injuries as part of their growing up. Some may experience falls in the tub, stumble on their feet as they begin to walk, or accidentally trip while in childcare.
In most cases, these injuries can appear way worse or more harmless than they are. Very rarely, children who suffer from direct trauma or more significant injuries may develop serious complications, including brain injury or bleeding around the brain.
Read on to know what to look for and what to do with head injuries in children.
What is a Head Injury
A head injury occurs after an impact or trauma to the outer surface of the head, face, scalp, skull or even, rarely, the brain.
Most head injuries involving children are mild, like a bruise or bump on the head. But for severe ones, it might include a concussion, a fractured skill bone, external swelling, or even internal bleeding of the brain.
Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injuries in kids of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is also one of the top causes of head injuries in those under nine years old.
Children under four are also prone to injuries to the head, while young athletes may regularly suffer from mild to serious concussions. Regardless of its type, parents and guardians must express concern and watch for any developing symptoms.
Following an injury, even weeks after, it is crucial to watch for warning signs. Observe if the child is nauseous, has trouble with taste or smell, or has ringing in the ears, along with other symptoms.
Even mild forms of head trauma can lead to fatigue and repeated headaches. While severe ones often cause a child to have trouble sleeping, mood/behavioural issues and can affect their ability to concentrate.
Signs and Symptoms
Head injury symptoms can occur after an injury or may develop slowly over several hours, days ormay take even weeks.
Depending on the type of injury, its severity, and its location, the child may experience the following symptoms:
- A cut or bruise on the head
- Frequent crying or non-stop
- Headache or possibly holding or rubbing the head for no reason
- Discolouration under the eyes or behind the ears
- Aggressive or irrational behaviour
- Decline in appetite
- Memory loss or unable to focus
- Dizziness or confusion
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Numbness or weakness in parts of the body
- Bleeding or fluid leaks coming from the ears or nose
- Unresponsiveness or loss of consciousness
Watch for these signs following a direct blow, jolt or trauma to the head.
First Aid for Head Injuries
Prompt first aid care is important when it comes to head injuries involving children, especially if they are more serious or may involve a concussion.
Here are the first aid steps to follow after a head injury.
If external bleeding comes from a cut or scrape, watch it off using soap and clean water. Apply direct pressure on the wound with a gauze pad or clean cloth. Do it for at least 10 minutes or until the bleeding has stopped.
Apply cold packs
Use a cold pack or an ice bag wrapped in a wet cloth to help reduce pain and swelling. Apply it for 20 minutes and repeat every hour when needed.
Watch for symptoms
Watch the child closely in the first hours after the injury. Have them lie down and rest until all symptoms are cleared. Allow them to sleep, but keep them nearby. Once awake, check their level of alertness and see if they can talk or walk normally.
Take pain medication
To help with the pain, have your child take acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol. Another option is Ibuprofen (or Advil), and use it as needed. Consult a doctor for child-safe medications to prevent complications.
When to Seek Help
Call your doctor if the child is experiencing symptoms of concussion.
Also, seek medical help if the child passes out, has trouble breathing, has a severe headache, has problems concentrating or if the symptoms have become worse.
It can be tricky to know the best course of action after your child has received a hit or trauma to their head. There is a question in your head, wondering if there is a need to take them to the ER or take a watch-and-wait approach.
For this reason, it is important to learn to recognise a serious head injury from a mild one and provide necessary care before further help is available.
Book a first aid course and learn lifesaving skills that could save someone’s life.