I know this sounds obvious but preventing a bump is better than curing one. I sometimes wish it was possible to wrap them up in cotton wool but as it’s not, there are lots of other things you can do – although I will admit I think this fella’s crawling helmet might be taking it a little too far!!
There are however times a helmet is a good idea! Always make sure they wear a helmet when cycling or on a scooter, childproof the home using stair gates and other safety equipment and check that windows cannot be opened by your child especially upstairs windows (if necessary move beds or furniture away from the window to reduce the risk of falls). Avoid the use of cot bumpers as these can pose a suffocation risk as well as being a potential climbing aid to be used to escape a cot. Even with all the precautions in place it is inevitable that they will have the occasional bump.
In Ireland 40-50% of all head injuries occur in children and the fact that our little ones have no fear, more energy than the Duracell bunny, and have practically non-existent co-ordination explains how this is the case. I know it’s a scary sound when you hear a bump followed by a loud cry, you immediately think the worst, so I’m going to give you some warning signs to look out for and some advice on how to respond!
With a minor bump to the head generally the advice would be to observe the child for 48 hours to make sure they don’t develop any of the more serious symptoms (discussed below) and offer reassurance if they are upset. If they are showing any signs of a mild headache you can treat it with paracetamol (calpol) or ibuprofen (nurofen) as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. As you will see later if the headache is persistent then you will need to ask your doctor for advice. I also find arnica cream or gel is particularly good to reduce any bruising.
Over 90% of head injuries that present at A&E in Ireland are minor head injuries but unfortunately the symptoms a child will have with minor or serious head injuries are similar. With a minor head injury, most likely your little one will be experiencing symptoms such as mild headaches, nausea (feeling sick), mild dizziness and slight bruising or swelling in the area. Depending on their age they may not be able to tell you how they are feeling so look out for visible signs like the child holding their head, reduced coordination and refusing food. The HSE advises that if you experience a minor head injury as described above then there is no treatment necessary but you will need to observe them for 48hours and if you notice any worsening of the symptoms or the child is distressed and you are unable to console them then you will need to seek medical attention.
There are a number of symptoms that would indicate a serious head injury and would require immediate attention. These normally occur when the impact causes the brain to hit against the inside of the skull to cause brain tissue damage, bruising or swelling. Nerves or blood vessels around the brain may also be damaged during the impact. I’ve listed the symptoms below but if you notice anything else make sure to ask your doctor for advice. These symptoms usually develop within 24 hours and can last for days, weeks or months after the injury depending on the severity:
- Loss of consciousness (can last seconds or minutes but you should call 112 or go straight to hospital)
- Drowsiness (difficulty staying awake)
- Clear fluid leaking from nose or ears
- Bleeding from ear(s) or bruising around ear(s)
- Problems with balance (you may notice they have difficulty walking)
- Blurred vision (may be evident by child walking into obstructions)
- Seizure or fit- (where all the muscles in the body go into spasm – use Epilepsy Ireland’s TEAM technique for managing a seizure: Take care to protect the person, Ensure you stay with them, Allow the seizure to run its course, Move the person onto their side when the seizure is over – see http://www.epilepsyireland.ie for more information)
- No memory of event that caused the injury or events afterwards
- Headache that lasts longer than normal
- Vomiting (getting sick)
- Mood changes including child becoming more irritable or fussy behaviour
A mother’s instinct will normally keep you right, remember to monitor them closely for at least 48 hours after any bump to the head and if you have any concerns then remember to always seek medical attention.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!