Posted by Claudia Grazioso on March 9, 2012
Every time one of my kids falls, the first thing I ask is “Did you hit your head?” I ask it automatically, even if I saw the whole thing happen and they obviously just have a skinned knee or elbow. I can’t help it. I’m paranoid about head injuries. If I ever gave way to my most psychotic fears, my kids would walk around with helmets on. Fortunately for them (and their fledgling social lives), I’ve fought the urge. So far. But even though most head bumps are exactly that — a bump or a bruise — head injuries are no joke. In fact, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among kids in America.
It should come as no surprise that children sustain the most head injuries between infancy and age four — think about the learning-to-walk years and the not-quite-steady-on-their-feet years. How many times did they hit the floor? Also, toddlers and preschoolers usually think they are a bit more coordinated than they actually are. The other age group most prone to head injuries? Teenagers, of course, who still believe in their own immortality. Of course, most head injuries occur in the spring and summer months when kids are outside and more active. While you can’t (and shouldn’t… right?) prevent them from playing sports or running around, it’s not a bad idea to make sure they have all of the protective gear necessary, especially a helmet if they’re skateboarding, biking or blading.
If your child falls and bumps their head, or if they get hit with something (a baseball, a bat, etc.), watch them closely. If they were unconscious even for a short period of time, if they seem dazed, vomit or complain of head or neck pain, seek immediate medical help. Also check to make sure their pupils are still the same size, and that their speech and vision have not been impaired or altered. If you notice any of these things, contact your doctor immediately or, if you’re like me, call 911.
What almost always happens in our house is one of the kids bangs their head right before bedtime. This is always a huge dilemma for me as my instinct is to keep them up. Most experts agree that if your child seems normal, it’s not necessary to keep them awake but rather to check on them periodically after they’re asleep to make sure they are fine. By check on them, I think the experts mean make sure their breathing is normal and they look okay. But checking on them for me usually means rousing them a few times, and tickling them until they sit up, look me square in the eye and ask me, with some annoyance, to please knock it off and let them sleep. Which, if you’re a mom worried about head injuries, is music to your ears.