internal head injuries, which may involve the skull, the blood vessels within the skull, or the brain
Fortunately, most childhood falls or blows to the head cause injury to the scalp only, which is usually more frightening than threatening. An internal head injury could be more serious because it may cause bleeding or bruising of the brain.
External (Scalp) Injuries
The scalp is rich with blood vessels, so even a minor cut there can bleed a lot. Sometimes the scalp’s veins leak fluid or blood into (and under) the scalp. This appears as a "goose egg" or swelling on the head. It may take days or even a week to disappear.
What to look for and what to do:
Call the doctor if your child is an infant; has lost consciousness, even briefly; or if a child of any age has any of these symptoms:
won't stop crying
complains of head and neck pain (younger or nonverbal children may be more fussy)
vomits several times
won't awaken easily
becomes hard to console
isn't walking or talking normally
If your child is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is alert and behaving normally after the fall or blow:
Apply an ice pack or instant cold pack to the injured area for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. If you use ice, always wrap it in a washcloth or sock; ice applied directly to bare skin can injure it.
Watch your child carefully for the next 24 hours. If you notice any of the signs of internal injury, call your doctor right away.
If the incident happens close to bedtime or naptime and your child falls asleep soon afterward, check in a few times while he or she sleeps.
If color and breathing are normal, and you don't sense a problem, let your child sleep (unless the doctor has advised otherwise). There's no need to keep a child awake after a head injury.
Trust your instincts. If you aren't comfortable with your child's appearance, partly awaken your child by sitting him or her up. Your child should fuss a bit and attempt to resettle. If he or she still seems very drowsy, try to awaken your child fully. If your child can't be awakened or shows any signs of internal injury, call the doctor or 911 for an ambulance.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear fluid that cushions the brain from damage. But a severe blow to the head can still knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels.
Some internal head injuries can be serious and possibly life-threatening. These include a broken skull bone, torn blood vessels, or damage to the brain itself.
It can be hard to know how serious a head injury is, so it's always wise to call your doctor.
Symptoms and What to Do
Call 911 if your child shows any of these symptoms after a head injury:
unconsciousness for more than a few seconds
obvious serious wound
bleeding or clear fluid from the nose, ear, or mouth
Do not try to move your child in case there is a neck or spine injury.
Call for help.
Turn a child who is vomiting or having a seizure onto his or her side while trying to keep the head and neck straight. This will help prevent choking and provide protection in case of neck and spine injury.
If your child is conscious:
Do your best to keep your child calm and still.
If there's bleeding, apply a clean or sterile bandage.
Do not attempt to cleanse the wound, which can make bleeding worse and/or cause serious complications if the skull is fractured.
Do not apply direct pressure to the wound if you suspect the skull is fractured.
Do not remove any object that's stuck in the wound.
Concussions — the temporary loss of normal brain function due to an injury — are also a type of internal head injury. Repeated concussions can permanently damage the brain.
In many cases, a concussion is mild and won't cause long-term damage. Kids who get a concussion usually recover within a week or two without lasting health problems by following certain precautions and taking a break from sports and other activities that make symptoms worse.
Playing sports is one of the most common causes of concussions. To help protect your kids, make sure that they wear the proper protective gear, and don't let them continue to play if they've had a head injury.
If your child sustains an injury to the head, watch for these signs of a possible concussion:
"seeing stars" and feeling dazed, dizzy, or lightheaded
memory loss, such as trouble remembering what happened right before and after the injury
blurred vision and sensitivity to light
slurred speech or saying things that don't make sense
problems concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
difficulty with coordination or balance (such as being unable to catch a ball or other easy tasks)
feeling anxious or irritable for no apparent reason
If you suspect a concussion, call your doctor right away.
Preventing Head Injuries
It's impossible to prevent kids from ever being injured, but there are ways to help prevent head blows.
Most kids stumble and fall from time to time, but a child who continually loses his or her balance might have a balance disorder.
Ow! You fell and hit your head. But do you have a concussion? Find out about concussions in this article for kids.
The term concussion conjures up the image of a child knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen with any head injury, often without any loss of consciousness.
Concussions: Getting Better
All body parts take time to heal, even brains. But because you can't see a brain injury, healing can be a little more complicated. This article for teens has tips on what doctors often recommend to help people heal from a concussion.
Concussions: What to Do
In a concussion, the brain shifts inside the skull. This can cause a sudden - but usually temporary - disruption in a person's ability to function properly and feel well. Here's what to do if you suspect a concussion.
Dealing With Falls
Falls are mostly a problem for young children and old people, but they can happen to active teens. Find out what to do - and when to get medical attention - by reading this printable instruction sheet.
Dealing With Sports Injuries
You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.
First Aid: Falls
Although most result in mild bumps and bruises, some falls can cause serious injuries that need medical attention.
First Aid: Head Injuries
Learn about the different types of head injuries, and find out what to do if your child is seriously injuried.
Getting Help: Know the Numbers
The best time to prepare for an emergency is before one happens. Make sure your family knows emergency phone numbers - and make sure your kids know how to place a call for help.
Knowing Your Child's Medical History
In an emergency, health care professionals will have many questions about a patient's medical history. It's easy to compile this information now, and it could save critical minutes later.
Preventing Children's Sports Injuries
Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids.
Safety Tips: Inline Skating
Inline skating is good exercise and an excellent off-season training program for hockey and skiing. To stay safe while inline skating, take a look at these tips.
Safety Tips: Skateboarding
Skateboarding is undeniably cool, but it's also easy to get hurt. Keep it safe while skateboarding with these safety tips.
Sports and Concussions
As long as people play sports, there will be concussions from time to time. Find out how to protect yourself and what to do if you get a concussion playing sports.
Stay Safe: Baseball
Attention, baseball players: Getting hurt stinks, so check out these 10 tips for staying safe when you're on the diamond.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
American Sports Medicine Institute
The mission of ASMI is to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.
Brain Injury Association
The mission of this group is to create a better future through brain injury prevention, research, education, and advocacy. Call: (800) 444-6443