Treating Minor Head Injuries in Children
By Dan Brennan, MD, WebMD
Call 911 if your child:
- Is not breathing
- Lost consciousness
- Had a seizure
- Is hard to wake up
- Is slurring speech or acting confused
- Wobbles when walking
- Has weak arms or legs
- Can’t move their neck as usual
- Keeps bleeding
- Has a dent in the skull or a lot of swelling
Minor head injuries in young children are scary. And although the wounds are usually small, some head injuries need immediate medical care.
Call Doctor If:
You think the injury is serious or if your child:
- Is younger than 2
- Has neck pain
- Keeps crying
- Needs stitches for a wide open wound
- Vomited several times
- Isn’t crying but has clear fluid coming from the ear or nose
- Has blurry vision
- Has a bad headache
- Has memory loss
- Shows signs of confusion
- Has a history of brain injury
- Fell from a height greater than three feet
- Was struck in the head by an object travelling at a high speed
1. Care for a Minor Scalp Wound
- Wash the area with mild soap and water.
- To stop bleeding, use a sterile cloth and apply pressure for 10 minutes.
- Ice the area for 20 minutes using ice wrapped in a towel or cloth. Ice the area again after an hour to reduce swelling and pain.
2. Watch the Child
- Keep an eye on your child for 2 hours. Pay attention to how they walk and talk.
- Look for changes from their normal behavior. Watch for any signs listed above that indicate you should call the doctor.
- Give the child only clear liquids.
3. Treat Symptoms
- If your child is acting normally after 2 hours, give children’s-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain, if needed.
- Do not give them aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) because they could lead to bleeding.
- Continue to watch your child for signs of a more serious injury for 24 hours. It’s OK to let your child go to sleep, but you may want to check on them every few hours to make sure they are breathing normally.
- After 24 hours, follow up with your pediatrician for help in evaluating your child’s condition and to get answers to questions such as when it will be OK for your child to return to play or other activities.
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