Head injuries in children

Bumps and tumbles are a part of every childhood. With the first rush of a child’s tears, every parent goes through a period of indecision as to whether or not the injury is serious. These guidelines are designed to help parents identify more serious head injuries. However, they are not meant as a substitute for medical attention and you should always seek professional advice as per our medical disclaimer.

What are the symptoms and signs of a more severe head injury? 

  • Confusion, drowsiness, or loss of consciousness
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Crying that lasts more than ten minutes
  • Initial improvement followed by deterioration
  • Clumsiness, dizziness, or difficulty walking
  • Fluid or blood leaking from the ears or nose
  • A headache that is constant and/or worsening
  • Vomiting more than once

When can I treat the injury at home?

Children can be observed for 24 hours at home if they do not display any of the above signs and symptoms and:

  • Are older than two years
  • Do not have any neurological disease or developmental delay
  • Do not have a bleeding disorder
  • Do not have a possible neck injury
  • Are alert and act normal after a brief period of crying
  • Do not take any blood thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin (coumadin)

When should I seek medical attention?

  • If there are any signs of a more severe injury, as listed above
  • If your child exhibits any behavior that seems strange to you
  • If your child is less than two years old
  • If there is severe bleeding from the head or face or a laceration that needs to be repaired.
  • If you are concerned for any other reason

First aid measures for head injuries

Check the child’s airway, breathing and for signs of circulation. Start CPR if necessary. Remember to minimize neck movement as much as possible.

If your child is unconscious, assume that there is a possible spinal injury and stabilize her head between your hands while help arrives. If vomiting occurs, roll the head, neck and body as one unit. Try to avoid twisting your child’s neck.

Stop any bleeding by compressing bleeding areas with gauze or a clean cloth. If a fracture of the skull is suspected, do not apply direct pressure to the fracture.

What not to do:

Do not move a child if a more severe head injury is suspected unless your child is unconscious and you are unable to check for breathing. For example, if they are lying face down.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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