A pediatric brain injury sounds like a scary thing that only happens in extreme situations. The truth is that children are both resilient and vulnerable. Also, children tend to get into a lot of scrapes. It is up to parents to be watchful over their children and make sure that they are fine after a fall or a trauma to the head.
What is a pediatric brain injury?
Simply put, it is an injury to the brain of a young patient aged under the age of 21. Treatment for this kind of injury varies depending on the age of the affected person. For example, a 20-year-old would likely undergo a treatment plan typically used for an adult.
Brain injury affects children differently than it affects adults. Pressure or trauma to the head affects a growing brain and skull in a different way. This means that a child with a brain injury may have a different outcome and require a different treatment plan compared to an adult with a similar injury.
How it could happen
The leading cause of brain injury in children aged 14 and below is trauma caused by a fall. Toddlers that have just started to walk will suffer the odd knock to the head as they move and fall over. Growing older, children will experience falls during play, fights or bike rides. Another common cause of pediatric brain injury is accidents caused by cars or other situations. Newborns can also suffer minor brain injury during childbirth; thankfully, this kind of brain injury resolves with timely medical intervention.
Warning signs of pediatric brain injury
Every parent should develop the ability to tell the difference between a harmless bump to the head and something to worry about. When a parent or caregiver observes the following, they should immediately take their child to see the doctor.
- Loss of consciousness
- Vomiting that follows a blow to the head could indicate a concussion
- For infants, a scalp injury
- For infants, incessant crying following a blow to the head or a fall
- Complaints of head and neck pain in children that can express themselves
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- The child becomes hard to wake
- Difficulty in speaking or walking
- Change in color or behavior
As a general rule, a parent or caregiver should keep a close eye on a child that has suffered an injury to the head. Even when the child looks fine, the parent should keep them under observation for the 24 hours that follow the injury.
Diagnosis and treatment
When a parent takes their child to the hospital, the doctor will diagnose the patient with the help of physical exams and medical imaging. The doctor will perform a visual exam of the external injury and test the child’s reflexes. The medical professional will also ask for medical imaging tests like an X-ray, CT scan or an MRI. Based on the diagnosis and the age of the patient, the doctor will craft a treatment plan that suits the patient’s needs.
Children’s head injuries need close attention
Pay close attention to your child’s condition and behavior in the hours following an accident or a fall. Check your child for the common warning signs of brain injury, just to be sure. If you see anything that concerns you, call your doctor’s office to set up an urgent appointment or to get some help. At the other end of the line, you will find a person that will guide you through the steps you need to take to help your child.
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