Head injuries are very common in children. Most head injuries in children are minor and do not cause any serious sequelae. The most common mechanisms of head injuries include falls (most common), sports, motor vehicle accidents, projectile (i.e., a toy is thrown and hits a child in the head), bike accidents, and assaults.
There are a few important things to look out for after a child (ages 2 years and older) has an injury to the head:
1. The first is loss of consciousness. Did the child pass out and lose consciousness after the head injury? If a child loses consciousness after a head injury, even if the loss of consciousness was brief, it is important to have the child evaluated by a healthcare provider.
2. Another symptom to keep an eye out for is vomiting. Sometimes a child will have an episode of vomiting after a head injury. In most cases a single episode of vomiting is not due to a serious brain injury, however in some cases vomiting can be a sign of a more severe injury. Children with vomiting after a head injury should be evaluated by a health care provider immediately.
3. The third thing to watch for after a head injury is altered mental status. This includes confusion, agitation, extreme sleepiness (lethargy), slow responses, and/or repetitive questioning. Altered mental status is a stronger predictor of a serious brain injury and warrants immediate evaluation in the emergency department.
4. Headache is a common symptom after a head injury. If the headache continues to worsen and/or if the headache is severe the child should be evaluated by a health care provider.
5. Seizure occurs in 1% of children after a head injury. The presence of a seizure after a head injury is extremely concerning for a more serious injury to the brain, therefore this also warrants immediate evaluation in the emergency department.
A note about babies: The symptoms to watch for after a head injury in infants and young children are the same. Infants and young children will often not verbalize if they have a headache, therefore keep an eye out for increased fussiness/irritability. Additionally, we never want to see/feel squishy spots on the head of an infant or child-this can indicate a fracture to the skull and should be evaluated immediately.
Usually, head injuries in children are minor and do not cause any severe injury to the brain however, it is very important to watch for the symptoms listed above and seek immediate medical care when needed. As always, contact your child’s health care provider with questions or concerns.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care opened in 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. With multiple locations in San Antonio and Dallas, they are open seven days a week with extended evening hours and see walk-in patients or through an online check-in system. They accept most commercial insurance and Medicaid plans. More information about Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care can be found here.