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Head injuries in children: Should I be worried?

Head injuries are very common among children and adolescents. The majority of children who bump their head recover without any difficulties. If a child hits their head so hard that it causes a brain injury this is called a "concussion." The most common causes of concussions are falls, sports, car accidents, and bicycle accidents.

If a head injury occurs and it was more than a light bump you should call a doctor or a nurse. Your child does need to be seen right away in some circumstances. If your child fell from a height taller than 3-5 feet, was hit really hard or hit by a fast moving object, or is younger than 6 months they should be seen. Symptoms that could be worrisome include vomiting, passing out, difficulty walking, confusion, dizziness, weakness, grogginess, continuous crying, blood or fluid coming from nose or ears, or a cut that does not stop bleeding after applying pressure for 10 minutes.

If you believe that the head injury is not serious and your child is not exhibiting any worrisome symptoms there are some things you can do at home to help your child feel better. Have them lie down and do a quiet activity or take a nap. If there is bleeding use a clean cloth to hold pressure to the area for 10 minutes. Ice or cold packs can be placed on any lumps or bumps that form on the head after an injury. This should be held on the area for 20 minutes. Over-the-counter pain medicine such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen can also be used to help with pain and swelling. However, if the injury gets worse or your child starts to experience new symptoms do not hesitate to call the clinic or hospital.

Treatment for a head injury depends on the seriousness of the accident and symptoms your child is experiencing. Imaging tests may be ordered or a "wait and watch approach" may be used. The physician may have your child rest at home a few days or limit their activities, depending upon their symptoms. The Nebraska Sports Concussion is a network developed in the state that providers and trainers use to improve health care for athletes returning after a head injury. There is a return to learn and a return to play protocol that is followed. The common test, called IMPACT, is provided at Tecumseh Family Health. After the diagnosis of a concussion individuals cannot take the IMPACT test until they have no symptoms for 24 hours. Using the results from the test as well as any symptoms your child may experience, the provider can then make a determination when your child can return to their normal activities. If your child has had multiple head injuries it may also be advised that they refrain from any contact sports.

The beginning of the school year and athletic season is a common time in our community to see an increase in concussions. Head injuries can be serious; if you are worried do not hesitate to call the clinic or the hospital.

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