Head injuries - babies and children
head; injuries; bump; concussion; bruise; shake; skull; fall; first; aid; injury; cut; bleed; ;
Children's heads are often hurt when they fall over or bump into something hard. Sometimes bangs on the head can cause very severe harm, but often small knocks just cause bruising and pain for a short while.
If you have any concerns about your child after a bump to the head, always get the child seen by a doctor. This topic contains some information about managing bruises and minor cuts on the head. It does not give any information about how to assess whether the bang has caused any harm to the child.
The Raising Children Network site has information about concussion
If the bang on the head has been hard (perhaps in a car accident or a fall from a height), or the child appears dazed, loses consciousness (even for a moment), seems unwell or vomits after the bang, get medical help quickly. If your child is unconscious call an ambulance. Do not leave the child alone.
Important Note: Children can also have bad brain damage from being shaken.
Never shake a baby.
- Even small bangs on the head can cause large bruises and large soft swellings because the scalp has a very good blood supply and the bone of the skull is just under the skin (no 'padding' to absorb the knock).
- Sometimes the bruise can be kept small if ice (or a packet of frozen vegetables such as frozen peas) is applied to the banged area quickly (wrap ice in a damp cloth; do not put something very cold directly onto the skin).
- Some pressure on the banged area can also help if the child will allow it.
- These bruises usually go down quite quickly too (within a day or two), leaving just the colour of the bruise and a sore spot. If the swelling stays, the child should be seen by a doctor.
When to see a doctor
Get medical help quickly if:
- the bang on the head has been hard (perhaps in a car accident or a fall from a height)
- the child appears dazed or loses consciousness (even for a moment)
- the child seems unwell or vomits after the bang.
If your child is unconscious call an ambulance. Do not leave the child alone.
You should also have your child seen by a doctor if you feel worried.
- After a fall or bump young children are often sleepy, especially if they have cried a lot or it is getting near to a sleep time. If the child seemed well after the bang on the head, it is OK to let him go to sleep. But if he seems unusually sleepy (you cannot wake him up after about an hour or he seems dazed when he wakes), he should be seen by a doctor straight away.
If your child seems well, but complains of a sore head, it would be OK to give some paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Cuts on the scalp can bleed a lot, because of the good blood supply in the scalp.
- Put a clean dressing over the cut and press on the cut for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- If the bleeding has stopped, gently examine the cut and if it is more than about 1 centimetre long it may heal better with treatment from a doctor.
- If the bleeding has not stopped in 10 minutes, get the child seen by a doctor.
- Smaller cuts may heal without extra treatment so long as they are clean, but always check with a doctor if you are unsure.
- If there is any chance of dirt, glass or anything else in the cut, always get this checked by a doctor.
- Again, if the child seems dazed, loses consciousness, vomits or seems unwell after the bang, get help from a doctor.
NB: if the child is not fully immunised against tetanus, this should be checked with a doctor. An extra tetanus injection may be needed. Tetanus protection in part of the routine immunisation program for babies and children.
What is concussion?
Concussion is a brain injury that may result in a bad headache or unconsciousness.
Have a look at information about concussion on the Raising Children Network site
Red Cross Australia
- A free First Aid Smartphone App can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store.
Better Health Channel
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.