If only we could bottle kids' marvellous energy. It's better than solar power! Still, their energetic exploration of life often results in bumps and bruises to the head. Fortunately, most of these are not serious. Nevertheless, when we hear the awful thud of a child's head, our breath catches and for a moment...
Youngsters seem to be always "banging" their heads on something. It's difficult to know how to respond. There are some general guidelines for when it is serious and when it isn't. Don't feel bad contacting medical professionals. Trust your instincts. You don't want to be calling for every little thing, but you certainly don't want to miss something important.
Symptoms for concern:
Some of these symptoms may be difficult to assess in a small child. Should you have any concern about your child following a head injury then you should seek medical advice.
Thudguard may protect your child's head from bumps and bruises but a significant fall could still result in a head injury. A child who sustains a head injury (whether or not the child is wearing head protection), and has any of the above symptoms, must be seen by a doctor - either your own family doctor or at an Accident & Emergency department.
Early Injury Can Have Long-Term Effects
Although young children with brain injury usually recover their mental abilities quite rapidly, they can have serious problems later. "These kids have incredible learning deficits even when the IQ returns to normal," said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, a University of Texas neurologist. She noted that 70% of children's brain injuries affect the frontal cortex.
Because growth in the brain's frontal regions continues throughout young adulthood, early injury there can damage formation of the protective myelin insulation around neurons. This can impair their ability to control emotions and inhibit inappropriate behaviour. These kids have trouble responding to subtle social cues and planning difficult tasks.
How to Identify the Seriousness of a Child's Concussion
All concussions are cause for concern, but not all concussions are the same. Symptoms can include confusion, headache, concentration problems, mood swings, or sleep difficulties.
"Concussions are caused by a blow to the head," says Michael Goodman, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of Paediatrics and Neurology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. "They can occur when a child falls and during any sport that can involve a collision of the head with another object - be it a head, a ball, or the ground."
After reading a list like this it is tempting to try to protect your child from every situation that might result in an injury. It is appropriate to use good judgment in deciding which environments are safe for your child, but it is also important to allow him the opportunity to express himself through physical activity. Sometimes growth means taking risks and appropriate risks are worth taking!
N.B. Stair gates for infants and toddlers, car seats, seat belts, and helmets for riding a bicycle or roller-blades prevent many serious head injuries. Make sure your child is properly equipped for his activities.
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Lawson E. Stuart, RN, MBA, MICP
Academic Programs, California