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Children of all ages are susceptible to head injuries. However, toddlers may be more vulnerable to head bumps while learning to crawl or walk. Bumps and superficial cuts on the head and face normally heal without much trouble. Even a minor cut on the head may bleed heavily, which can be distressing. But the injury may not be so serious and can usually be stopped with home care. But in case of internal head injury, it is difficult to tell whether the brain has suffered a concussion or a more serious grievance. This article will help you understand the types of head injuries, symptoms, and what you can do to treat them.
What Is a Head Injury?
Head injuries constitute one of the main reasons for disability and deaths in kids. The term head injury can broadly be used to describe the huge range of injuries that happen to the skull, scalp, brain and the blood vessels, muscles, bones and tissues in the head of the child. In simpler terms, any trauma or injury inflicted on to any structure of the head can be called a head injury.
A head injury may be a slight bump, bruise or a minor cut on the head, or a more traumatic brain injury (TBI) because of a concussion, open (penetrating) wound, a deep cut, internal bleeding, or fractured skull bones.
Types of Head Injuries
Head injuries may be of two types – internal head injuries and external head injuries. Internal injuries are normally related to the brain or skull, including the blood vessels inside the skull, whereas external injuries may usually concern the scalp.
Internal Head Injury
Our brain is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to prevent damage to it. But in case the head suffers a serious blow, it can knock the brain or cause injury to the blood vessels, muscles or bones of the skull. Therefore, internal head injuries are usually considered serious and can also be life-threatening.
In case the child shows the following symptoms after suffering an internal head injury, call the doctor immediately. Some of the symptoms can be:
- The child remains unconscious for several seconds
- Heavy bleeding which shows no signs of reducing or stopping
- The child suffers a seizure
- The child experiences partial numbness or weakness in the body
- Disturbed speech and vision (double vision)
- The child is unable to recall the incident or repeatedly asks the same questions
- Abnormal breathing
What You Can Do
First and foremost, it is important to remain calm after the child has had an accident. Maintaining calm will help you assess the situation properly. It may not be easy to establish the possible extent of damage in case of an internal head injury. Hence, it is always sensible to consult a doctor. It is also advisable to observe your child for the next 24 hours after the accident for any worrying signs. You may like to refrain from giving any medication to your child on your own without consulting the doctor.
If your child is conscious, try your best to calm your child as much as possible. Avoid applying direct pressure to the injury. It can be detrimental in case there is a fracture. In case the child is vomiting, turn him onto his side to prevent choking.
If your child is unconscious, avoid moving your child. Keep his head and neck straight to avoid any likely damage to the spine or neck. If there is a seizure, loosen any clothing that may be tight, especially around the neck. Check your child’s body for any injuries to provide first aid and call or visit the doctor immediately.
External Head Injury
External head injuries, even insignificant cuts tend to bleed a lot as the scalp and face have numerous blood vessels very close to the skin’s surface. In case of a blow or injury to the head, blood or fluid from the veins of the scalp may leak and get collected under the scalp leading to swelling or a “goose egg” on the head. The bump may take several days to subside and disappear.
In the occurrence of an external head injury, a child may display the following symptoms:
- A severe headache
- Recurrent vomiting
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds
- Bruising around eyes or behind ears
- Difficulty in talking and walking normally
- Clear fluid or blood flowing from nose or ears
- Swelling or “dent” in the head
What You Can Do
In case of any bleeding, applying pressure over the wound with a clean bandage or cloth for some time may be helpful. But if the cut is significant, medical intervention may be required. Placing a cold compress on a bump may prove useful in relieving bruising and swelling of the skin. It may also help in easing out some of the pain. When applying an ice pack, wrapping it in a clean, soft cloth can be a good idea. Putting ice directly on the bare wound may injure it further.
Refrain from removing any object that may have gotten wedged in the wound. Observe your child for the next 24 hours. If your child wants to sleep after the injury, he may do so, but keep a constant check on him while he sleeps. If he shows any symptoms of an internal injury or you feel something is unusual, call the doctor instantly.
What Is Concussion?
A concussion may occur when the head suffers a closed injury. A closed injury refers to a head injury which does not breach the skull but temporarily alters the normal brain functioning. The injury may be the result of a fall, a hard blow or violent shaking. Recurrent concussions can cause permanent damage to the brain.
Some of the signs of concussion in a baby can be blurred vision, slurred speech, dizziness, vomiting, temporary memory loss, headaches, difficulty in balancing. But usually, most of the effects of a concussion are temporary, and a child may recover completely after some time without any long-term damage. Certain tips to deal with a concussion are listed below:
- Ensure that your child takes adequate rest after the head injury.
- It is not advisable for the child to indulge in any strenuous physical activity immediately after the incident.
- Monitor your child for the next 24 hours and be on the lookout for any abnormal changes.
- Ask your child to take it slow. Overstimulation of the brain after a concussion may prevent recovery.
- Your child should avoid activities like watching TV, playing video games, etc. that may worsen the condition.
Ways to Prevent Head Injuries in Kids
Here are some of the ways to prevent head injuries in kids:
- Make sure your kid wears suitable protective gear while playing sports.
- Ensure your kid wears a seatbelt while travelling in a vehicle.
- Childproofing your house may help in preventing household accidents.
- Refrain from slapping or violently shaking your baby in anger to avert baby head injury.
- Be aware of your kid’s abilities and try and anticipate the risk factors for him. It pays to be smart and to be one step ahead of your child.
When to seek medical help and how to provide first aid are the most likely questions asked by parents when it comes to children’s head injuries. It is natural to worry about head injuries, but, it is important to understand that most of these head injuries are minor and may not possibly result in any serious complications. It is very rare that a child suffers a significant head injury which can cause brain injury or internal bleeding.