Head bumps can be very serious in little ones and it is really important to know the signs of concussion.
Every day, 45 children under 5 are admitted to a UK hospital following a serious fall – that’s over 16,000 every year.
One of the most common reasons that young children fall is that their rapid development takes parents and carers by surprise. For example a baby might climb up something they were previously unable to reach – how many times have you heard someone say “I didn’t know they could do that”? Crawlers and toddlers have a strong natural instinct to explore but zero concept of danger – a scary combination!
With babies, people often think because they are not yet mobile there’s nothing to worry about. Cases where babies fall from a bed or changing table and sustain head injuries are actually pretty common, even though they’re only a couple of feet off the ground.
Even very young babies can wriggle and the soft spot in their skull – the fontanelle – means they’re at greater risk of a serious head injury if they fall. This soft spot closes at different times, but generally takes a few of months to fully close and protect your baby’s brain.
My child has had a head bump – what do I need to be aware of?
Firstly you need to be aware that all bumps to the head are potentially dangerous, no matter how minor. For at least the first 24 hours after a head injury you need to keep an eye on your little one. Easier said than done we know.
Signs of a head injury (concussion) are:
· feeling sick or being sick
· mild dizziness – children may describe feeling “wobbly”
· mild blurring of vision – to test this ask them to tell you what they see in a favourite picture book or program
· losing consciousness, even if only briefly
· difficulty staying awake
· any sign of skull damage (a dent in the head)
· slurred speech
· weakness, or loss of feeling in the arms or legs
· having a seizure
If your child experiences any of these signs, or is behaving in a way not usual for them, seek medical advice. It is important to use your gut instinct here – you know your child better than anyone else.
Treating minor head bumps
Most minor head bumps can be treated at home whilst keeping an eye out for the signs of concussion listed above, which require that you seek medical advice.
If your child has a bump to the head make sure they sit down with a cold compress applied to the bump for at least 10 minutes. This is really important, even if it’s in the middle of playtime with friends! They need to avoid any rough play whilst recovering from their head bump.
Use a cold compress to soothe pain or something from the freezer wrapped in a towel. Even a wet cloth like a muslin will provide relief if you have nothing else to hand.
You can give your child the appropriate age- related dose of paracetamol if they have a headache.
Try not to do anything too busy or active with your child whilst they are recovering from a head injury – they need time to rest. Also, you ideally need to be free from distractions so you can keep an eye out for signs of concussion (see above).
Preventing head bumps
Obviously there isn’t anything you can do to prevent a head bump whilst your child is in childcare or at school. But there are some things you can do at home:
· change your baby’s nappy on the floor – falls from a changing table or bed are actually quite common and can cause serious injury
· keep bouncy chairs and car seats on the floor – wriggly babies can move them a long way without you even realising
· put up stair safety gates before you actually need them – your baby will be showing signs they are close to being independently mobile so this is the time to install safety barriers
· strap your child into their highchair every time you use it. Growing children test their strength all the time and may decide to push themselves up and out of their seat
We hope this has given you a bit more confidence when faced with the dreaded head bump form. Bumps to the head are always frightening, but with a bit of knowledge your child will be in safe hands with you keeping an eye on them.
Thanks for reading.
If you’d like to know more about first aid for bumps, bleeds, breaks, burns and more, you can book a First aid for kids and teens class here.
Sources: NHS Inform Scotland, Child Accident Prevention Trust