My Baby Hit His Head: What Should I Do?
Falls are common with children as they become more mobile. Internal head injuries are more serious than external injuries to the scalp and always require medical care when a baby is involved. The appropriate reaction to a baby hitting his head depends on the age of the child, the nature of the impact and the symptoms that develop. You should call your pediatrician immediately if you are concerned about your child hitting his head. However, parental observation helps determine if the baby has an internal or external head injury.
A sudden jolt or blow to the head can cause a concussion, which is a mild brain injury. Call 911 for concussion symptoms, which include:
- problems thinking
- difficulty awakening
Also call 911 if your child has a seizure or is unconscious for more than one minute; cannot move his neck normally or bleeding does not stop; or has slurred speech, weakness in his arms and legs or seems to be confused in his thinking.
Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if your child is an infant or less than 1 year old or if he has symptoms of concussion or another brain injury; has fallen from a height that is more than twice his height; has been hit with a hard object or his injury was caused by a car accident or other high-speed event; has blurred vision or a large dent in his skull; or has swelling that is larger than 1 inch. You also should contact your doctor if your child has a severe headache, is continuously crying or has no memory of what occurred. Notify your doctor if you notice fluid from your child's ears or nose. In the absence of these clear emergency situations, you might be able to treat your child at home.
Bumps and Bruises
If your child does not exhibit signs of a serious injury after hitting his head, he might have a scalp injury. Bumps to the head usually cause a bruise or swelling on the scalp. Because of the large amount of blood supplied to the scalp, minor injuries can cause big lumps on the head, a lot of bleeding or black eyes one to three days after the injury. Skull fractures occur much less frequently and usually heal without problem, causing only an ache at the site of the impact.
If your child is not an infant or displaying concussion symptoms, apply an ice pack to the injury for about 20 minutes. Repeat this treatment every three or four hours. Don’t apply the ice directly to the baby’s skin. Wrap the ice or the ice pack in a sock or washcloth. If the injury occurred close to nap time or bedtime, check on your child periodically while he sleeps to make sure he is breathing properly and his color is normal. Observe your child for signs of serious injury over the next 24 hours and contact your doctor if you notice symptoms.