Most head injuries only damage the scalp, such as cuts, scrapes, bruises or swellings. Even with a small injury, you can get a big lump or bruise, because there are a lot of blood-vessels beneath your scalp. For the same reason, small cuts on the head may bleed a lot. Bruises on the forehead sometimes cause black eyes 1 to 3 days later. This is caused by blood spreading downward by gravity.
Only 1% to 2% of children with head injuries will get a skull fracture. Most often, there are no other symptoms except for a headache. Typically, your child will feel the headache at the site where the head was hit. Most skull fractures occur without any injury to the brain. Your skull is a powerful protector for your brain!
Concussion is a mild brain injury that changes how the brain normally functions. It is usually caused by a sudden blow to the head. Most children bump or hit their heads without causing a concussion. The most common signs are a brief period of confusion or memory loss.
Serious brain injuries are uncommon. This includes bleeding, bruises or swelling within the brain.
It is not easy for parents or caregivers to always know the extent of the injury, so the real question is when do you need to rush your child to the emergency room? The following signs and symptoms should not be ignored:
- Under six months of age
- Unconscious, even briefly
- Abnormal Breathing
- Crying for longer than 10 minutes or prolonged irritability
- Vomiting repeatedly
- Obvious head wound – It is important to note that no pressure should be applied to the wound if there is a possibility of a skull fracture. Do not remove any object or foreign body from the wound.
- Bleeding or other liquid draining from the ears, mouth, or nose.
- Rapid swelling just above the ear
- Bruising around the ear or eye
- Unable to walk or talk normally
- Acting strangely or drowsy
- Unequal pupil size
- Severe, worsening headache
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Skull indentation or large bump
- Bulging fontanelles (the soft parts on top of your baby’s head, before the skull closes)
- Great force of injury such as car accident or long fall
- Worsening symptoms or symptoms improve then worsen
If none of these symptoms are present, you can do first aid at home, such as:
- Apply an ice pack to the site of injury for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours
- Paracetamol can be given to relieve pain
- Watch your child for 24 hours for any other symptoms
- Many children are sleepy after a fall. It is safe to let your child sleep,as long as you wake him every half hour for the first six hours after the fall. After this, awaken him at your bedtime and again four hours later to check on him.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If you are in any way concerned about your child, please seek medical help. Better safe than sorry!