Head Injuries - When is a hard knock, too hard?

Grace Larson
On average 16,412 children each year are hospitalised following a knock to the head. For many children the injury is mild and can be managed with rest. But for some it may be life threatening, so inform yourself of these 10 red flags for when head injuries need urgent medical attention.

Prevention should always be at the forefront of our minds, in younger children avoid placing them unsupervised on a surface they can fall off e.g. on the bed.
In toddlers they are more likely to sustain an injury from climbing furniture or play equipment.
In older children  wearing helmets on bikes and scooters  also discouraging children from climbing unsafe areas (e.g. don't leave ladders up next to buildings).
On farms and rural properties children should be supervised at all times around livestock such as horses and cattle.

If your child shows any of these 10 signs below you should present to the emergency department or call an ambulance ASAP. These signs may appear straight away or within 72 hours of the injury.

The 10 head injury red flags 

1. It is followed by a seizure or convulsion
2. They complain of double vision, clumsiness or difficulty walking
3. There was any loss of consciousness for any period of time (even seconds)
4. Weakness or tingling in the arms or legs
5. Both eyes are black eyes (see picture)
6. Repeated vomiting (more than once)
7. Severe headache
8. Abnormal drowsiness, agitation, or not acting normally
9. A raised bump to the forehead, or side of head (under 2 years)
10. Clear or bloody discharge from the ears or nose

If your child has any of these signs the head injury may be moderate to severe and they need medical attention.
What comes next?

Once you get to hospital the doctors and nurses will ask you a series of questions to decide how bad the injury was. They will also conduct a full neurological exam which includes regular checking of the pupils and arm and leg strength. This information helps them to identify if things are getting better or worse.

If your child is showing signs of a severe head injury they will get a CT scan to take a closer look at the brain. Sometimes surgery is needed.

Further resources;

Head check helps parents identify concussion

Brain foundation has good information for post injury care

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