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How Do I Treat an Infant Head Injury?

Calling a doctor about an infant head injury always makes sense if a parent has doubts about what to do.
If an infant vomits after a head injury, a pediatrician should be seen immediately.
Bruises on the head are common for crawling infants.
Head injuries are more common with babies once they start crawling and walking.
It is important to call 911 if caregivers suspect that a baby has been shaken.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2014
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Infant head injuries are always a source of fear for parents. Delicate heads can unfortunately get injured in a number of ways, as from a fall, during early toddling or crawling experiments, or more seriously if a baby has been abused by shaking. Except in the latter example, many times a baby will be just fine, even if he sustains a cut, bump or bruise, but there are warning signs to look for that would suggest greater injury, bleeding in the brain, or concussion, and all parents and infant caretakers should be aware of these.

First, should a baby be shaken, that child needs care immediately, even if that care means one parent might face consequences for committing this act. It is possible for part of the brain to detach if a baby is held and shaken repeatedly, and this can cause death. Other caregivers who suspect a baby has been shaken should call 911 right away.

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In more normal settings, an infant head injury from falls may cause cuts or bleeding. Bleeding may seem profuse because there are so many blood vessels near the scalp. Pressure on the wound is important, but if the wound is more than a scrape and does not stop bleeding after several minutes of pressure, getting to a doctor for stitches might be necessary. Should bleeding stop on its own, a small bandage could be useful. When parents are unsure, it never hurts to at least call the pediatrician or doctor and get advice on whether to bring a baby to the doctor’s office or hospital, or to keep the infant home.

Cuts may occur with bumps or bruising suggesting that the infant head injury could potentially involve injury to the inside of the head. Since parents can’t see this area, the best thing to do is to observe a child for warning signals that all is not well. The first of these is loss of consciousness. Even if a child has been “out” for a few seconds only, loss of consciousness is always a potential sign of greater injury and the infant should either see a doctor or be taken to the emergency room immediately.

Another sign of a serious infant head injury is vomiting, especially more than once. Again, this should not be ignored and requires immediate care. Other signals of severe injury include pupils that are different sizes, inability to focus, seizure, twitching on one side of the body, poor balance or coordination, difficulty breathing, and paleness. Any of these symptoms alone are enough to warrant getting care right away, and parents should look for such symptoms to emerge not just in the first moments after an injury but for at least 24 hours after injury has occurred.

When these symptoms are not present, icing a bump or bruise can make sense. If parents feel this isn’t enough or are worried, they should definitely call their child’s doctor. Especially when children are in infancy, causes of head injury may be a little unusual, and the worry people may feel can make the situation more difficult.

Most pediatricians welcome the calls of parents, even if they occur in the middle of the night, such as right after a baby falls out of a parent’s bed. It always makes sense, when in doubt, to contact a doctor who can take parents through signs and symptoms and arrange to see them right away if needed, advise they head to the hospital, or suggest a follow-up the next day. On the other hand, should it be difficult to reach a doctor and a parent has noted some of the warning signs above, they should instead contact emergency services for more immediate help.

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anon337332
Post 4

My seven month baby boy fell face first on to tile floor in the kitchen last night. It was the worst sound and feeling I've ever experienced! My husband set him in his highchair and turned to grab something before fastening the safety belts or snapping the tray in place.

He is OK, thankfully, but needless to say, I stayed up all night after we got back from ER and watched him like a hawk all night as he slept!

ValleyFiah
Post 3

@submariner- I learned after my first kid how dangerous some of the things in my home are. I have corner bumpers on all of my tables as well as rugs under all of the furniture. The falls and tumbles come with being a parent, but eventually you learn where the danger areas in a home are and how to make them safer.

parmnparsley
Post 2

@submariner- That sounds horrible. I have a newborn and I constantly worry about newborn head injury. Like you, I have hard floors. I have taken extra precautions when changing my son. I have these body bumpers that I use when I change him. They are two soft triangular wedges that are connected by a piece of mesh. I lay them down on the changing surface and place my son between the bumpers. They do a good job of keeping him from squirming away while I am changing him.

I also use them when we are traveling and he is taking a nap on a couch or adult bed. They keep him from barrel rolling right off the edge. They are only about ten dollars, and it has been great for my piece of mind.

submariner
Post 1

Toddler head trauma can be scary. My daughter fell backward off our sofa onto a tile floor. She sat up from a diaper change and lost her balance, falling flat on the back of her head. She showed symptoms of concussion right away. Her balance was off, she was woozy and kept acting as if she wanted to sleep, and she was somewhat limp.

I rushed her to the hospital as fast as I could and had the doctor examine her head. By the time the doctor had time to see her, she was acting much better, but she still ran tests and took an x-ray. It turned out that she had a slight hairline fracture on her skull, but was otherwise fine. They kept her for a few hours to observe her behavior before letting us take her home.

The doctor said that toddler head injuries are common, but assured me that babies are resilient. She said most falls from less than three feet will not result in serious injury, but it is good that I did bring her in to be checked out. She said that she could tell it was my first child by my reaction when I came into the emergency room.

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