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Parents > First Aid & Safety > Emergencies > Head Injuries
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

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

External (Scalp) Injuries

The scalp is rich with blood vessels, so even a minor cut there can bleed profusely. The "goose egg" or swelling that may appear after a head blow is the result of the scalp's veins leaking fluid or blood into (and under) the scalp. It may take days or even a week to disappear.

What to look for and what to do:

Suspected Internal Injury

The brain is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid, but a severe blow to the head may knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels. Some internal head injuries — complications of a fractured skull, torn blood vessels, or damage to the brain itself — can be serious and possibly life threatening.

Different levels of injury require different levels of concern. It can be difficult to determine the level of injury, so it's always wise to discuss a head injury with your doctor.

What to Look for 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 are also a type of internal head injury. A concussion is the temporary loss of normal brain function due to an injury. Repeated concussions can result in permanent injury to the brain. However, it's possible to get a concussion that's mild and doesn't result in long-term damage.

One of the most common reasons kids get concussions is through sports, so make sure yours wear appropriate 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 for further instructions.

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: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: January 2011

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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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