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Head Injuries

Head injuries fall into two categories:

  1. external (usually scalp) injuries
  2. internal head injuries, which may involve the skull, the blood vessels within the skull, or the brain

First Aid Guide Falls Go

Fortunately, most childhood falls or blows to the head cause injury to the scalp only, which is usually more frightening than threatening. An internal head injury could be more serious because it may cause bleeding or bruising of the brain.

External (Scalp) Injuries

The scalp is rich with blood vessels, so even a minor cut there can bleed a lot. Sometimes the scalp’s veins leak fluid or blood into (and under) the scalp. This appears as a "goose egg" or swelling on the head. It may take days or even a week to disappear.

What to look for and what to do:

Internal Injuries

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear fluid that cushions the brain from damage. But a severe blow to the head can still knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels.

Some internal head injuries can be serious and possibly life-threatening. These include a broken skull bone, torn blood vessels, or damage to the brain itself.

It can be hard to know how serious a head injury is, so it's always wise to call your doctor.

Symptoms and What to Do

Call 911 if your child shows any of these symptoms after a head injury:

If your child is unconscious:

If your child is conscious:

Concussions

Concussions — the temporary loss of normal brain function due to an injury — are also a type of internal head injury. Repeated concussions can permanently damage the brain.

In many cases, a concussion is mild and won't cause long-term damage. Kids who get a concussion usually recover within a week or two without lasting health problems by following certain precautions and taking a break from sports and other activities that make symptoms worse.

Playing sports is one of the most common causes of concussions. To help protect your kids, make sure that they wear the proper protective gear, and don't let them continue to play if they've had a head injury.

If your child sustains an injury to the head, watch for these signs of a possible concussion:

If you suspect a concussion, call your doctor right away.

Preventing Head Injuries

It's impossible to prevent kids from ever being injured, but there are ways to help prevent head blows.

Make sure that:

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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