Concussions & Kids: Tips for Spotting a Head Injury
March is Brain Injury Awareness month. To help improve awareness, we’ll be republishing some of our best brain & head injury blog posts.
With football and hockey seasons starting back up, it’s a good time to refresh your memory on how to spot concussions and head injuries in children. Though these sports can increase the chances of your child acquiring a blow to the head, head injury and concussion can happen to any of us, at any time.
Most childhood injuries to the head are of the external variety and though they may look unpleasant, are generally less serious, injuring only the scalp. Internal head injuries, though, may involve the blood vessels, skull or the brain and result in bleeding or bruising of the brain.
Even a minor cut to the scalp can bleed profusely, due to the large number of blood vessels located here. Bumps or “goose eggs” are the result of these vessels leaking fluid or blood within the scalp, causing a firm swelling or protrusion.
EXTERNAL HEAD INJURY SYMPTOMS
If your child has lost consciousness, is an infant or has any of the following symptoms seek immediate medical attention:
Complains of head and neck pain
Difficult to console or won’t stop crying
Is hard to wake up
Their walking or gait is affected
Watch your child for the next 24 hours for any signs of internal injury. Call your doctor immediately if your notice any internal injury symptoms
Trust your instincts – if feel something is wrong or something seems out of the ordinary to you with your child, it’s better to seek medical attention than to wait it out
A severe blow to the head can knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels causing concussion, internal bleeding or swelling. Some internal head injuries can be serious and life threatening. Always discuss any head injury with your physician.
Internal Head Injury Symptoms
Call 911 if your child presents any of these symptoms after an injury to the head:
Bleeding or fluid from the nose, ear, or mouth
Obvious serious wound
Non-reactive pupils or pupils of unequal size
Speech or vision disturbances
Muscle weakness or paralysis
Neck pain or stiffness
Sudden change in gait
IF CHILD IS UNCONSCIOUS:
Do not move the child – there may be a neck or spinal injury
To prevent choking, roll a child who is vomiting or having a seizure onto his or her side, while supporting the head and neck, making sure it is straight
LEAVE THESE ISSUES TO THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
Do not attempt to clean a head wound, as this can exacerbate bleeding or cause serious complications in the case of skull fracture.
Do not apply direct pressure to a wound that you suspect could be a fractured skull
Do not remove any objects stuck in the wound
This type of internal head injury is categorized by the temporary loss of normal brain function due to its injury. Concussions can range from mild to serious and repeated concussions can result in permanent brain injury.
SIGNS OF A POSSIBLE CONCUSSION:
Feeling dazed, dizzy, or lightheaded or “seeing stars”
Slurred speech or incoherence
Lack of concentration, trouble thinking or making decisions
Problems with coordination or balance
Inexplicable irritability or feelings of anxiety
If you suspect internal injury or concussion seek immediate medical attention for your child.
Head Injury (and Re-injury) Prevention
It’s impossible to keep your child from sustaining injuries as they grow and explore, but there are ways to help prevent head trauma and injury.
Make sure your child wears the appropriate protective gear and safety equipment when skating, biking, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing or playing contact sports.
Be sure your child always uses their seatbelt and/or child safety seat when in the car.
PROTECT THEM FROM RE-INJURY
Reinjuring the brain while it’s still healing, can cause your child greater difficulties in healing completely and may create a more serious situation. Decrease the risk of serious problems by ensuring your child carefully follows their physician’s advice.
Make sure your child rests appropriately after a head injury, especially in cases of internal injury or concussion
Restrict rough play or sports until your child’s doctor has released them for such activities.
Each additional concussion your child experiences, can increase the risk of long-term issues including poor concentration or coordination. Repeated concussions can also be life threatening.
By practicing prevention and safety first, treating any head injuries accordingly and with a watchful eye towards your child’s well-being as well as preventing re-injury, you can keep your child safe from long-term brain function issues later in life, caused by severe injury or trauma to the head.