A bump to the head

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Head injuries can lead to serious consequences
Head injuries can lead to serious consequences

As your baby becomes mobile – learning to crawl and walk on his own – he will have many falls, some of these on his head. Your baby’s skull protects his brain and is designed in a way to withstand the bumps and bruises of early childhood and as such a fall shouldn’t do much harm. There are times, however, that a baby can suffer a head injury.

Know what you’re dealing with

Work out whether he has suffered an injury to his scalp or his brain.

Your baby’s scalp is full of blood vessels. A fall could cause injury to these, resulting in a bump or bleeding. These are rarely serious and can be dealt with easily at home.

However, an injury to your baby’s brain is very serious and can take the form of bleeding or concussion. Bleeding on the brain occurs when the blood vessels between the brain and skull are broken, and the resulting blood causes compression on the brain. Concussion occurs when the brain is shaken in a fall, causing a change in the normal functioning of the brain.

What to do

Stay calm and do the following:

  • Ice the area of the bump using a cold compression for 20 minutes. Take a 5 minute break before applying it for another 20 minutes
  • Stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a cloth
  • Observe your child for signs of a more serious injury  such as internal bleeding or concussion.

When to worry

After treating the initial bump look out for signs of a more serious injury. Take your baby to the doctor or emergency room if you notice:

  • Loss of consciousness: This may indicate bleeding on the brain, which is dangerous
  • Vomiting: If he vomits two or more times he should be examined by a doctor
  • Loss of balance and altered mental state: Your baby will probably be a little dizzy but if he falls over and bumps into things after the fall take him to a doctor. You will also need to do this if he can’t focus on you, look you in the eyes or respond to your voice
  • Signs of drowsiness, including confusion and irritability or a change in the sound of your baby’s crying (he’s whimpering or not crying at all)
  • Crossed or rolling eyes: Also look out for signs of dimished vision and one pupil larger than the other
  • Convulsions.

Over the next 24 hours

Even if your baby wasn’t badly affected by the fall keep an eye on him for the next day. If you notice the following symptoms it’s important to see a doctor:

  • Change in colour from healthy pink to pale or blue
  • Change in breathing
  • Twitches on one side of the body involving a limb.

Your baby will probably fall into a deep sleep following a bump to head (no matter how minor) and you shouldn’t worry about having to wake him from this unless you notice any of the symptoms above.

Convulsions

What to look out for and how to treat it

Mild concussions can be treated at home. You will know your baby has a concussion if:

  • He is drowsy
  • He is dizzy
  • He is irritable and confused
  • He has vomited once or twice
  • There is clear or bloody drainage from his mouth, nose or ears (take your baby to the emergency room).

Your baby should recover from a concussion in his own time but it’s important to take him to a doctor to rule out any permanent damage. However, if he loses consciousness, his breathing patterns change or he has a convulsion call for an ambulance to take him to the hospital immediately.

If he displays any of the “when to worry” signs don’t wait to take him to the doctor.

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