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Top Ten Signs of Serious Head Injuries in Kids

As parents chances are your child has experienced a bump on the head. But when do you know if your child needs just a little comforting or if the bump or injury requires immediate medical attention? The good news is most bumps on the head are minor, but traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about half of all patients hospitalized with head injuries are less than 20 years of age. Boys are also injured twice as often as girls.

Ajit A. Sarnaik, M.D., a critical care medicine physician on staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center, says parents should look for the following warning signs after a bump on the head to determine if medical attention is warranted.

  • Child is not alert or responsive after injury
  • A headache that gets worse over time
  • Slurred speech, dizziness, blurred vision or confusion
  • Difficulty recognizing people
  • Vomiting more than two or three times
  • Stumbling or weakness of arms or legs
  • Child has blood or watery fluid from the nose or ears
  • Difficulty waking up or excessive sleepiness
  • Unequal size of the pupils (the dark center part of the eyes)
  • Convulsions (seizures)

Dr. Sarnaik advises after any bump on the head, parents should monitor their child closely and call their pediatrician if there is any question about how the child is responding or behaving after the injury.

He adds that if a child experiences a particularly scary mechanism of injury, such as being hit by a car, a high velocity impact, or a fall from more than standing height, it warrants medical attention. 

“If a child experiences a concussion, parents should make sure they follow the return-to-play guidelines prescribed by athletic trainers and/or their pediatrician. In the car, always wear seat belts and properly restrain the child according to age-appropriate car seat guidelines. The same goes for a bicycle helmet. Always, always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter the age.”

Children's Hospital of Michigan is verified as a Level One pediatric trauma center certified by the American College of Surgeons. This achievement recognizes the trauma center's dedication to providing optimal care for injured patients. To schedule an appointment with a pediatric specialist on staff visit call (313) 745-KIDS (5437) or toll-free at (888) 362-2500 or select from the following:

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