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Head injuries and concussions

Head injuries

Scalp and forehead injuries are the most common head injuries children get.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider for an appointment if:

  • your child's skin is split wide open and may need stitches
  • Tip

    Cuts or lumps on the head are common because the scalp has a rich supply of blood.

  • bleeding won't stop 10 minutes after you apply direct pressure
  • your child is younger than 6 months old
  • your child can't remember the accident
  • your child acts in an unusual way
  • fluid (clear or bloody) drains from the ears or nose
  • your child has a seizure

Head injuries often cause headaches. You may give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) every four hours. Follow the package directions for your child's age and weight.

Call your health care provider if the headache gets worse or lasts for more than 24 hours.

What to do after the head injury

Let your child sleep, but wake her two hours after the accident and every four hours during the night. Do this to:

  • talk to your child and listen for slurred or unusual speech and unusual breathing
  • watch your child walk for leg or arm weakness, problems walking and blurred or double vision

Concussions

Kids at play are at risk for a concussion. This is a blow to the head that affects how the brain works.

Tip

Your child can have a concussion even if he isn't "knocked out" (loses consciousness).

A concussion is a brain injury. You can't see it but it causes changes in your child's behavior, thinking or physical actions. Signs of a concussion can occur right away or hours or days later.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, watch for these symptoms if your child has a concussion:

  • headache
  • memory problems
  • upset stomach or vomiting
  • balance issues or dizziness
  • double or blurry vision
  • being sensitive to light or sounds
  • feeling hazy, foggy or groggy
  • problems concentrating
  • confusion
  • not "feeling right"
  • seizures

If your child has a concussion, rest is the most important thing he needs. Follow your health care provider’s directions and keep all follow-up appointments, even if your child feels better.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child has any concussion symptoms.

Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if your child:

  • passes out
  • has trouble breathing
  • has a severe headache
  • has problems concentrating
  • has symptoms that become worse

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic