Table of Contents
- 1 Overview
- 2 What is a Head Injury?
- 3 Causes of Head Injuries in Children
- 4 Signs of Head Injuries in Children
- 5 What Should You Do If Your Child Suffers a Head Injury?
- 6 Can Head Injuries Cause Brain Damage?
- 7 Diagnosis of Head Injuries In children
- 8 Treatment of Head Injuries
- 9 Are Head Injuries Always Life Threatening?
- 10 Preventive Measures to Avoid Head Injuries in Children
- 11 Conclusion
Are your lil munchkins naughty? Do they have an innate curiosity to explore their surroundings? I am sure you are often taken aback seeing them uncontrolled and bouncy. No worries, you are not alone. Those miniatures of ours are customized to be like that. All that we have to do is make their childhood safe and memorable. Fill it with happy and moral thoughts. This blog discusses your nightmare as a parent. Something you never want to face. It’s all about the ins and outs of head injuries in children.
As kids learn to walk, climb, run, leap, and play, they may fall. Experts opine that it is absolutely normal helping them in growth and development. Now, what if when the falls end up in head injuries in children. Every head injury may not be serious, but it’s not something to be also overlooked. Head injuries in children may even result in disability and death.
Most parents feel that the safest place for their children is their home. But studies report contradictory data. Fifty seven percent of injuries in kids happen at home, with just 6 percent at school. Any place where the child is active and playing is prone to injuries.
What is a Head Injury?
Any damage to the scalp, skull, brain, or other tissues and blood vessels in the head is considered head injury in children. It could range from a mild cut to a severe contusion or concussion. Studies indicate that developing brains are vulnerable to injuries than adult brains.
CDC reports that, in 2016, 7.0 percent of children aged 3 to 17 have experienced a severe head injury at some point in their lives. The study also indicates that boys (8.3%) were more likely to have a significant head injury than girls (5.6%).
Causes of Head Injuries in Children
There is no specific cause for falls and head injuries in children. Any place, time, or activity where the child is dynamic may result in a head injury. Let it be a supermarket, playschool, shopping mall or a park, children always play around, trying to explore many things. This makes head injuries in children a very common incident. Vigorous shaking or bouncing of infants are reported to be a major cause of brain injury.
Compared to adults, children have larger heads in proportion to their body, and their neck muscles are not fully developed. With these physical characteristics, when they try a new skill like jumping, running etc, it may result in falls and head injuries. Head injuries in newborns may be birth injuries due to mismanaged obstetric events.
Head injuries in children over the age of 5 may be caused due to sports activities like skateboarding, cycling, gymnastics, swimming, etc. Another major cause reported to be associated with head injuries in children is sexual abuse. Like adults, motor vehicle accidents are also reported as another cause of head injuries in kids.
Signs of Head Injuries in Children
The below-listed are the most common symptoms associated with head injuries in children. The symptoms of a mild head injury may vary from that of a severe head injury. However, it is not advisable to overlook head injuries based on the symptoms.
Symptoms of a Mild Head Injury
- Bump or cut in the head
- Superficial cuts in the head
- Blurred vision
- Abnormal walking pattern
- Abnormal speech
- Complaints of head and neck pain
- Fussiness and irritability
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Refusal to eat
Symptoms of a Severe Head Injury
- Deep cut or open wound in the head
- Dilation of the pupil
- Fluid oozes from the nose or ears
- Loss of consciousness
- Continuous crying
The tricky part is that head injuries in children or adults may not always be visible unless it is presented as cuts or bumps in the head. Children may not communicate about the head injuries as they may not know the gravity of the issue or its aftermath. They may also be frightened to talk about the injury.
What Should You Do If Your Child Suffers a Head Injury?
The first and foremost thing to do when noticing head injuries in children is not to be nervous. Keep in mind that shaking or slapping a baby make a mild head injury into a serious brain injury. Closely observing the child after a fall or an accident is the key to address head injuries in children effectively. In most cases, it happens that the parents are not aware about the fall or injury of the child. Sit your child down, console him, and make sure he gets some rest when they sustain a head injury.
Make sure he gets some rest if he gets a knock, bump, or blow to the head. If the child is alert, apply an ice pack or an immediate cold pack to the wounded region every 3–4 hours for 20 minutes. Observe the child’s breathing pattern.
Make sure that the ice is wrapped in a washcloth and not applied directly to the skin. Carefully observe the child. Seek medical attention after the first aid. If the child is profusely bleeding or unstable after the head injury, apply direct pressure to your child’s head. Never delay to consult a physician. Dial 911 for an ambulance.
It’s difficult to tell how bad a brain injury is just by looking at it. Some mild head injuries bleed profusely, while major head injuries in children do not bleed at all. The best possible way is to take the child to a physician for a detailed evaluation.
Can Head Injuries Cause Brain Damage?
All head injuries may not indicate brain damage. It would depend upon the extent, severity and also the location of the injury. Some head injuries may be superficial just affecting the scalp and the skin in the head without affecting deeper parts. Those kinds of injuries would not need long-term medical care.
When the head injury involves damage to the skull or any portion of the brain, it would have catastrophic effects. Experts suggest that it is better not to overlook any head injury in children as it is not possible to assess a head injury just by the signs, especially in children.
Let’s get to know the major types of head injuries in children.
- Scalp injury
Scalp injury is one of the most common head injuries in children. It may be manifested as a minor cut, laceration or a swelling. Scalp injuries are not life-threatening if it is minor and had not affected the brain.
- Skull fracture
A skull fracture indicates any fracture in the bones in the head. It occurs due to a direct impact to the calvarium. A skull fracture could be linear, depressed, diastatic or basilar, depending upon the region of skull fracture. In children, the parietal bone in the skull is commonly involved in a skull fracture, followed by the occipital, frontal, and temporal bones.
In most head injury cases in children, a skull fracture does not cause any damage to the brain. However, when associated with an intracranial injury, skull fractures may turn out very complicated.
Concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs due to vigorous shaking or blows to the head, causing it to forcefully jerk backwards, forwards or to the side. A concussion is one of the common types of mild Traumatic Brain Injury associated with falls in the children.
The majority of concussions in children occur on the playground, while biking, or when participating in sports like football, ice hockey, wrestling, or soccer. A concussion usually induces chemical changes in the brain alters brain functioning. Mild concussions demand a few weeks for recovery.
A contusion is a bruising of the brain that involves jarring of the brain against the sides of the skull. This can result in tearing the internal lining, tissues, and blood vessels in the brain near the point of the head where the impact occurred. Contusions can occur when there is a fracture or blood clot in the brain.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)
DAI occurs due to violent shaking of the brain back and forth associated with falls or shaken baby syndrome in children. Mild Diffuse Axonal Injury may be mild or severe depending upon the severity of the impact to the head. Severe cases may induce a coma in the victim.
Diagnosis of Head Injuries In children
The immediate diagnostic method to assess head injuries in children is physical examination. The physician would observe any visible injuries in the head and monitor the child for any other vital signs. It is crucial for the parents to discuss the child’s medical history during the initial examination stage.
The secondary diagnostic methods would be imaging studies like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI, which would detect any structural changes inside the brain and would detect any skull fractures. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is another diagnostic method for head injuries where the electrical activity of the child’s brain is monitored via electrodes.
Treatment of Head Injuries
Treatment strategy followed for head injuries in children may depend upon
- The severity of the head injury
- The age of the child
- The type of head injury
A minor head injury may be treated with ice, and the child needs to be monitored for around 24 hours. If no complications are observed, you can get your child back home. With adequate rest, he would be ok. Head injuries with cuts or bleeding may be treated with an adhesive bandage and antibiotic. In such cases, you may need further follow-ups to check if the wound has healed.
Sedation, ventilator support etc may be needed for major cases like internal bleeding, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Concussions, etc.
In some cases of severe head injuries, the child may need lifelong assistance for daily needs. Rehabilitation therapies may also be required to overcome the complications of the injury.
Are Head Injuries Always Life Threatening?
Head injuries in children, if life-threatening or not, depends upon the extent and type of the injury. Most of the head injuries from playing and falling may not be severe. The severity of any head injury may depend upon the area of damage and if the injury involves brain damage or not.
It’s better not to analyze at home the severity of head injuries in children. A small bump or a minor cut without any symptoms may indicate a mild superficial head injury. However, serious injuries may be life-threatening, affecting the rest of the child’s movement and activities. Children who experience a serious brain injury may encounter problems in muscular coordination, speech, vision, hearing, etc.
Head injuries may also cause issues in personality or conduct. Children with severe head injuries may need rehabilitation therapies like physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Severe head injuries may even cause the victim to go to a vegetative state or coma for the rest of the life.
Preventive Measures to Avoid Head Injuries in Children
Though it’s not always practical to keep track on children, there are few safety guidelines that can avoid head injuries and future worries.
- Make sure that kids are using protective headgears while involving in sports activities like skateboarding, cycling, etc. This would prevent head injuries in children during games prone to falls.
- Childproofing the home may protect your baby or toddler from serious head injuries.
- The use of seatbelts, booster seats, etc could prevent head injuries in children during a car accident.
- Never leave your baby alone on a tabletop or in a crib.
- Always use safety straps when making the child sit on a swing.
- Always opt for kids-friendly flooring when you have babies or toddlers at home.
As parents and caretakers, all that we got to do is provide a safe playing environment to the kids. Never be overconcerned about their safety. Customize and childproof your home to ensure safety and prevent head injuries in children. While encountering any mishap, never try to treat at home. Giving first aid, immediately seek medical attention. Parents of children with head injuries are frequently told to keep an eye on their children at home for indicators of injury worsening.
It’s better to keep a tab on their safety, but never hold them back. Let our children be safe and explore the world.