Head Injury, Age 3 and Younger - Topic Overview
Almost all children will bump their heads, especially when they are
babies or toddlers and are just learning to roll over, crawl, or walk. These
accidents may upset you, but your anxiety is usually worse than the injury.
Most head injuries in children are minor.
Head injury occurs more
often in young children than adults. When compared with adults:
- Young children cannot control the movement of
their heads as well as adults.
- Their heads are larger in relation to their
- Their neck muscles are not as well developed.
- Young children's legs are somewhat shorter in
proportion to the rest of their bodies. This makes a child's center of gravity
closer to the head than an adult's center of gravity.
children are more likely to have an accident or fall as they learn new skills
such as walking, running, and jumping.
Bumps, cuts, and scrapes on the head and face usually heal
well and can be treated the same as injuries to other parts of the body. A
superficial cut on the head often bleeds heavily because the face and scalp
have many blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. This bleeding is
alarming, but often the injury is not severe and the bleeding will stop with
home treatment. See
how to stop bleeding. When bleeding does not stop with home treatment, visit
a doctor, because a young child can lose a large amount of blood from a deep cut
on the head.
The most common serious head injuries in young
children are caused by falls and abuse (inflicted head injuries). Serious head
injuries may involve injuries to the brain. The more force that is involved in
a head injury, the more likely it is that a serious injury to the brain has
occurred. If there has been a
high-energy injury to the head, there is a greater
likelihood that a serious injury has occurred. When a high-energy injury
occurs, it is even more important to assess the child for
signs of a serious head injury.
Shaken baby syndrome is thought to occur when a baby
is violently shaken, thrown, or slammed, causing the baby's head to move
forward and backward rapidly. This movement causes the brain to hit the sides
of the skull forcefully, leading to bleeding in the eyes and injury and
bleeding in the brain. Brain injury and bleeding can cause increased pressure
in the brain. Increased pressure in the brain can lead to serious, permanent
brain damage. Babies who have trouble breathing or who stop breathing during an
episode of being shaken, thrown, or slammed may have more brain damage.
Following an injury, it can be hard to tell the difference between a
mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) and a more serious brain
injury. Watch the child carefully for 24 hours after a head injury to see
whether he or she develops any signs of a serious head injury.