How to handle head injuries in babies
What should you do if your baby has a fall or suffers a blow to the head? Know the important signs to watch out for after any head injuries
As careful as you are when it comes to your baby’s safety and well-being, accidents are bound to happen.
An occasional small bump or bruise is inevitable, but if your baby suffers a fall or receives a blow to the head, there are some important warning signs you should watch out for and know when to bring him to the emergency room to get thoroughly checked out.
Head injuries in young children
According to Dr Chong Shu-Ling, Staff Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), the Department of Emergency Medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital sees an estimated 28,700 children presenting with injuries of all severities, in a year.
“This makes up about 15 – 17 per cent of all children seeking medical attention in the Emergency Department”, she says.
For example, among children aged 2 years and younger who are brought to the KKH’s Children’s Emergency with head injuries, almost 90 per cent of these take place in the home, and up to half of these occur in the bedroom.
In most cases of childhood injury, the injury is minor and the child recovers fully after receiving first aid or medical treatment.
In a few cases, the injury is severe and can cause permanent damage, or even death — such as the unfortunate incident where an eight month old baby boy in Pasir Ris died after falling from his pram.
What should you do?
If your bub has an injury to his head, you should try to remain calm, console him, then tend to his injury before determining whether or not to bring him to see a doctor.
Using a clean cloth or bandage, apply direct pressure on the wound for several minutes.
Don’t be too alarmed at the blood because there are more blood vessels around the face and head, so it may just look worse than it actually is.
Small bump on the head
Due to broken blood vessels under the skin, a large swelling can form a bump — also known as a “goose egg” — which can quickly go down if treated with an ice pack and some pressure.
If you don’t have an ice pack, you can also use a bag of frozen veggies from your freezer, which will help ease any discomfort and reduce inflammation.
Minor cuts and scrapes
After gently rinsing the area with mild baby soap and warm water, apply some antibacterial ointment and cover it with a bandage to prevent infections.
Your baby might vomit after getting a head injury just because he is feeling upset about the whole ordeal and hurting — which is perfectly normal, unless there is persistent vomiting over the next 6 to 24 hours.
To soothe him, you can continue to breastfeed or if he’s above 6 months old, then you can offer him clear liquids.
In the case of a concussion
If your baby received a serious blow to his head or was knocked unconscious, even if it was just for one minute, he could have a bruise to the brain, otherwise known as a concussion.
In this scenario, it is recommended that you try to keep your baby awake for the first hour or so and if he’s crying and not acting like his usual self, this could mean that he is feeling dizzy or confused.
If he does fall asleep, then keep on checking his skin colour and breathing pattern — if it appears to be normal, there’s no need to wake him.
But if he looks pale or his breathing seems to be irregular, rouse him gently from his sleep — if he fusses and tries to go back to sleep, this means that everything is fine, but if you can’t wake him up, bring him straight to the emergency room.
Go to the next page to see what are the other warning signs to look out for in babies with head injuries
When to worry
Since your baby is still unable to talk or tell you if he is feeling any pain or other symptoms, it is vital that you keep a close eye on your little one after he suffers from any head injuries.
According to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and some medical professionals, if your little one shows any of the following signs and symptoms, you should immediately bring him to the emergency department:
- Any unusual behaviour that is not considered normal for your baby
- Your baby suddenly has seizures, convulsions or fits
- He is unusually drowsy or seems to be sleepy all the time
- You are unable to wake your baby up from his sleep
- There is persistent vomiting
- There is bleeding or watery discharge from his ears or nose
- There is a gaping cut on your baby’s face, which might require stitches
- The bleeding doesn’t stop after five to ten minutes of applying pressure to the wound
- Your baby is inconsolable and doesn’t stop crying
- He landed head-first onto a hard surface (such as the floor)
- You notice he has crossed eyes or rolling eyes
- One pupil (of the eye) appears larger than the other
- His skintone changes in colour, for example he becomes paler or even turns blue
- There are twitches on one side of his body involving a whole limb
- He appears to be off balance while sitting, crawling or walking
How to prevent head injuries
Although accidents can happen, it is important that parents and caregivers take all necessary precautions to avoid any unfortunate incidents from occurring.
So what can you do to prevent your precious little one from getting any head injuries?
1. Do not leave your baby unattended, even if it’s only for a few seconds, especially on a high surface (such as your bed, the diaper changing station, or a baby high chair), or inside a baby crib that doesn’t have proper barriers.
2. Avoid using the sarong cradle or yao lan, as KKH reports that head injuries, skull fractures and even deaths have occurred when infants fall out or when the springs or attachments of the cradle breaks.
3. Refrain from letting your infant use a baby walker, because according to KKH they can topple over — many of such falls that caused head injuries and even deaths have also been documented locally and overseas.
4. Do not shake your baby violently when you are feeling frustrated or angry, because this can cause severe and fatal internal head bleeding.
5. Make sure that your baby’s high chair is sturdy and remember to always use the appropriate restraints to keep your bub safely secured when sitting.
6. Use an age-appropriate car seat for your baby and always buckle him in.
7. Babyproof all the potential danger zones in your house by putting safety gates at the top and bottom of any staircase and also installing safety grills on all windows.
8. Always strap your baby into the stroller or onto the changing table, as you never know when he might be able to roll over.
9. Try to keep furniture away from windows so that your child can’t climb up to open windows (even if they have window guards).
10. Place a soft play mat under your baby’s play gym or play area, so there is a something to cushion his fall in case he tips over.
Should your baby have a head injury and you’re unsure about what to do next, it is best to bring him to get checked by a healthcare professional just to be certain that everything is fine.
Has your baby bumped his head or had a fall before? What are your home remedies to cure a “goose egg”? Tell us in the comments section below