Things to look for in a possible head injury.
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How to treat head injuries in children: At first glance, minor head injuries can seem worse than they really are, so don’t panic (even if it’s your first instinct). If you lose control, chances are your child will take his cue from you, think there’s something to worry about, and become hard to console. Instead, try your best to stay calm and do the following:
- Heavy Bleeding, put a clean cloth or bandage on the wound first and apply direct pressure for several minutes. Keep in mind that cuts on the head and face bleed more than anywhere else because there are more blood vessels there, so don’t be alarmed if it looks gory! It doesn’t necessarily mean the cut is severe.
- For minor cuts and scrapes on the face, gently rinse the area with mild soap and warm water, apply an antibacterial ointment, and cover it with a bandage.
- Bumps and Lumps and your child doesn’t seem too upset, an ice pack (or a bag of frozen veggies, if that’s all you’ve got) is good for easing discomfort and reducing inflammation, as is ibuprofen (but only give your baby ibuprofen if he’s six months or older). And don’t forget the TLC!
When to call the doctor: You can treat most minor head injuries at home. But if your child has any of the following symptoms, call your pediatrician.
- There is a gaping cut on your child’s face (this will often require stitches).
- The bleeding doesn’t stop after five or ten minutes of applying pressure to the wound.
- Your child is inconsolable and won’t stop crying.
- Your child landed headfirst onto a hard surface.
What to do if you suspect your child has suffered a concussion: If your child has suffered a serious blow to his head or was knocked unconscious (even for a minute), he could have a concussion, which is a bruise to the brain. Call the doctor, who will probably recommend that you:
- Keep your child awake for the first hour or so to make sure you get a clear sense of his mental well-being before he naps or goes to sleep for the night. You want to make sure your child isn’t dizzy or confused. For a baby, this could mean he’s crying and not acting like his usual self. A toddler or preschooler could lose his balance or complain that he can’t see.
- Check on your child every couple of hours when he’s sleeping to get a look at his skin color and breathing pattern. If all appears normal, there’s no need to wake him. If he looks pale or his breathing seems irregular, rouse him gently. If he fusses and tries to go back to sleep, all is well. If you can’t wake him up, call 911.
- Keep tabs on your child for the next 24 hours. Call the doctor or 911 if your little one exhibits any of these symptoms: vomiting, imbalance, confusion, listlessness, extreme irritability, changes in eating, sleeping, or breathing patterns, complaints of a headache, slurred speech, eye irregularities (such as enlarged pupils or crossed eyes), seizure, blood or fluid discharge from the nose, or a loss of consciousness.
How to prevent head injuries in children: There’s no surefire way to keep your wobbly baby or waddling toddler from taking a dive, but there are ways to reduce the likelihood of one. They include:
- Never leave your baby or toddler alone on a high piece of furniture such as a bed, changing table, or high chair.
- Always strap your child into the stroller and high chair or onto the changing table.
- Keep “climbable” furniture away from windows so that your child can’t get to open windows (even if they have window guards).
- Don’t use a baby walker since your child may fall out of it or fall down the stairs while using it.
- Watch your toddler when he is playing outside, and stay within arm’s reach when he’s on a high surface.
- If you have a play gym or swing set in your yard, cover the area under and around it with soft materials (like wood chips or rubber mulch) so if (or when!) your toddler tumbles, he will fall onto a softer surface.