Children and babies are prone to head injuries as they have disproportionately large heads and are often oblivious to danger. Fortunately, most bumps to the head are superficial and result in damage to the scalp only – injuries to the head often look more serious than they are as heads and faces are very vascular and bleed profusely. More serious head injuries can result in damage to the brain. It is, therefore, vital to be aware of the signs and symptoms of internal head injuries.
The initial knock on the head can cause the brain to jolt around within the skull and this can lead to internal damage to blood vessels and swelling to the brain. Secondary head injuries can develop immediately or over a couple of days and need urgent medical attention.
If a child or baby has bumped their head, it is important to look for signs that could indicate any swelling of the brain and monitor them closely for the next 48 hours.
Call 999 or 112 if a baby or child is injured and they lose consciousness, even momentarily.
Remain calm, but treat the injury as serious if you observe any of the following:
• abnormal breathing
• obvious serious wound or suspected skull fracture
• bleeding or clear fluid from the nose, ear, or mouth
• disturbance of speech or vision
• pupils of unequal size
• weakness or paralysis
• neck pain or stiffness
• vomiting more than once
• Twitching limbs
• Changes in colour
• Disturbance of breathing
If your child has hit their head close to nap or bedtime and they appear tired, check them very carefully and if it was a minor injury and they appear totally fine, then let them go to sleep. Do not confuse falling asleep with losing consciousness! Ensure you check on them very frequently and wake them gently. Ensure you get a normal response with them stirring and settling back to sleep. If anything does not feel right, trust your instincts and call an ambulance.
It is not unusual for children to vomit immediately after an accident as a response to pain, so do not panic if a child is sick just once after a head injury, but they should be assessed by a medical professional anyway.
If a child in your care has had a bump to the head, it is vitally important you tell everyone looking after them about the incident, so they can keep an eye out for anything unusual over the next couple of days.
It is strongly advised that you join an online or practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit FirstAidforLife.org.uk, OnlineFirstAid.com or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.
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