By Dr. Janice Montague
Head injuries can be small like a bump on the head or severe like a concussion or contusion. It’s often difficult to determine which one someone has. Most injuries that do not involve loss of consciousness or are not related to significant trauma will not lead to bad outcomes. But how does a parent distinguish between something that needs a hug and something that requires the doctor’s attention?
According to Nemours Kids’ Health, the following are definitions of head trauma:
- A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury. It happens when a blow to the head or another injury moves the head back and forth with a lot of force. This causes chemical changes in the brain and sometimes damages brain cells.
- A contusion (bruise) happens when a blow to the head injures the skin and the soft tissue under it. Blood from small blood vessels leaks, causing red or purple marks on the skin. Contusions often happen on the scalp or forehead. More serious head injuries can cause a brain contusion.
- A skull fracture is a break in the skull bone. Skull fractures can happen in different parts of the skull.
- Bleeding can happen on and under the scalp and in or around the brain
It is important to see your doctor if your child is an infant. Also call your doctor if your child sustains an injury that causes loss of consciousness (even a brief one), that causes him to feel dizzy or out of it, vomiting, irritable or difficult to wake up, or is having difficulty walking or moving around. After a head injury, it is common to feel tired and it is ok to let your child sleep as long as you check on him and ensure he is rousable hourly. If your child seems ok it is ok to let him play but keep an eye on him for the next 24 hours. You can treat any headache with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be sure to speak with your doctor if the headache lasts more than a day or so, your child is dizzy, nauseous, has a sensitivity to light or noise, have vision changes, or has difficulty concentrating or sleeping. These can be signs of a concussion and while most children recover quickly it is important to refrain from some physical activity and screen time as well as testing and other things that can put stress on the brain.
Preventing head injuries is not always 100% possible, but prevention can be a good start. Remember to always have your child restrained appropriately in the back seat of the car until 12 and always wear a seatbelt no matter their age. Bike helmets, snowboarding, ski helmets, skateboarding, and quad helmets are also important prevention strategies. Mouthguards for sports can also help prevent certain types of concussions. Always ensure all windows that are on a second story or higher have guards as well.
As always if there are any concerns or questions the best thing to do is call your doctor or go to an emergency room for treatment. For more information including symptoms to look our for, click here.
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