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Head Injuries in Children: Problems to Watch For


Topic Overview

A minor head injury is sometimes difficult to distinguish from a more serious injury to the brain even when there is no visible bleeding or injury on the outside of the skull.

Check for the following changes immediately after a head injury:

  • A significant change in the child's level of consciousness
  • Confusion or not acting normal, such as extreme fussiness or crying that cannot be comforted
  • Abnormally deep sleep, difficulty waking up, or extreme sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Symptoms that affect one side of the body more than the other side, such as weakness or problems moving an arm or leg
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes, changes in the size or shape of the pupils and the reaction to light or abnormal eye movements, such as jerking motions or the eyes not working together
  • Seizure
  • Fever

A decrease in level of consciousness following a head injury may signal a life-threatening problem caused by bleeding, injury, or swelling within or around the brain. A child's level of consciousness can deteriorate suddenly or gradually. This change can be permanent or temporary.

If a parent or caregiver cannot be sure that a child was conscious following a head injury, a visit to a health professional is needed for further evaluation.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedJuly 1, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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