Our brains are very soft and delicate, sort of like big blobs of gelatin or uncooked tofu.
They are suspended in our hard, bony skulls by layers of tissue called meninges.
Cerebrospinal fluid fills most of the space in between our brains and our skulls – the fluid cushions our brains against normal everyday jostling.
If we receive a hard enough blow to the head, or if we are shaken hard enough, we can sustain a brain injury.
The brain’s functioning can be altered by such trauma – this is called a concussion.
Sometimes, a bleed in the brain or around the brain can occur. This may increase the pressure on the brain to dangerous levels.
Young children, especially infants and toddlers, may be unable to explain how they feel after a head injury.
Certain symptoms must be monitored in determining what kind of medical help (if any) needs to be sought.
It is certainly wise to call a young child’s healthcare provider, especially in the case of an infant, for anything harder than a light tap to the head.
Because infants cannot verbalize how they feel, their appearance and behavior become important indicators of a concussion.
They may be dazed, listless, irritable or easily fatigued after a head injury.
They may cry excessively, have trouble with balance, lose interest in things that they usually love, and have changes in sleeping or eating patterns.
Certain symptoms of a head injury – and the list is long – warrant seeking emergency help (911).
Symptoms include: Loss of consciousness (especially more than 30 seconds), abnormal breathing, gaping (usually bleeding) head wounds, blood or clear fluid draining from the ears or nose, unequal pupils;
Neck pain or stiffness, weakness or paralysis, trouble recognizing people or places, worsening headache over time, visual disturbances;
Speech disturbances, being dazed or “not acting right,” inconsolability, gait disturbance, vomiting two or more times, seizures, or a bump or bruising on the head that is not on the forehead.
Do not move an unconscious child (to avoid worsening a potential neck or spine injury.)
Many healthcare providers will advise caregivers of young children sustaining less severe head injuries to continue monitoring them for at least 24 hours.
It is a myth that such children cannot be allowed to sleep.
Most healthcare providers will advise waking a child up every 2-3 hours to make sure he acts and looks like he usually does when awakened unexpectedly.