For a parent, head injuries can be scary. One would think that it is easy to do some damage, but heads are fairly hard and the brain is fairly durable.
After a head injury, whether from falling or from an activity, it is important to know if there was any loss of consciousness. Did your child cry right away? Did they “pass-out”? Do they remember the injury? We also like to know if there was any vomiting associated with the injury. If any of these symptoms occur, you should give us a call.
Since symptoms from a head injury can develop over the next 48 hours, we would also like you to let us know if your child exhibits any change in level of consciousness or develops persistent vomiting over the next day or two. We recommend that you check on your child once or twice during the night to see if they would be “arousable”. You do not need to wake them up completely.
Sometimes, your child may have a headache after head trauma. When this happens, we assume that they have a concussion. A concussion may sound like something serious, but it is not anything more than a bruise. Just like when you have a bruise on your leg that may hurt, a bruise on your brain can cause a headache. We do want to prevent your child from getting a second “bruise” before the first “bruise” heals. For this reason, we do not want your child to participate in any contact sports until headache free for several weeks.
Remember that the skin overlying your skull is pretty thin and has a hard bone close to the surface. There is not a lot of room to allow for any normal swelling when there is an injury. If you had a bruise on the skin of your leg, the swelling would be able to expand downward into the thicker tissues of your leg. But with a bruise on the skin of your head, the swelling will only occur “upward and outward”. It is not unusual to have a bruise the size of a grapefruit. Use an ice pack, or a bag of frozen peas, to keep the swelling minimal. You may give Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for pain or discomfort.
Reasons to call the doctor immediately:
- If there is any change in level of consciousness or if there is persistent vomiting