Head Injuries in Children: Problems to Watch For
British Columbia Specific Information
Most head injuries are minor. Bumps and cuts to the head that happen as children or as adults often heal quickly and without long term concern. It is important to know the symptoms and signs of a minor head injury and one that may be more serious to make sure the right care is provided.
Call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse any time, day or night if you have concerns about a minor head injury and would like information on symptoms, treatment, and return to activity. Our registered nurses can also help you determine if a head injury is more serious and requires medical care. If you think a head injury may be serious call 9-1-1 or visit an emergency as soon as possible.
Even minor head injuries in a child may worry a parent or caregiver. The BC Children’s Hospital – Head Injury, Advice for Parents and Caregivers Handout provides detailed information on how to care for your child in the hours, days and weeks following a head injury when no signs of serious brain injury have been found. The Handout includes information on how to support children when they are ready to return to school, activities and sports after a head injury. For educational resources for parents, players and coaches on the recognition, management and prevention of concussions, visit the BC Injury Research and Prevention Units – Concussion Awareness Training Tool.
What to watch for after a head injury
A minor head injury is sometimes hard to distinguish from a more serious injury to the brain even when there is no visible bleeding or injury on the outside of the skull.
Check for the following changes immediately after a head injury:
- A significant change in the child's level of consciousness
- Confusion or not acting normal, such as extreme fussiness or crying that cannot be comforted
- Abnormally deep sleep, trouble waking up, or extreme sleepiness
- Symptoms that affect one side of the body more than the other side, such as weakness or problems moving an arm or leg
- Loss of vision
A decrease in level of consciousness following a head injury may signal a life-threatening problem caused by bleeding, injury, or swelling within or around the brain. A child's level of consciousness can deteriorate suddenly or gradually. This change can be permanent or temporary.
If a parent or caregiver can't be sure that a child was conscious following a head injury, a visit to a doctor is needed for further evaluation.
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofJuly 28, 2015
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