TMI Tuesdays: Head Trauma

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Head trauma in children can be scary!  Whether it's a fall from the grocery cart or simple friends clanking noggins on the playground it makes parents nervous.  Some simple things to watch for!

Head trauma in children can be scary!  Whether it’s a fall from the grocery cart or simple friends clanking noggins on the playground it makes parents nervous.  They’re going to need those brains for a long time!  First, I really want to preface this by listening to your inner mother voice.  If something is telling you that something is wrong, head trauma is the time to listen to it.  BUT, I even worry a lot when they get a big bonk on the head.  Here are a few simple things to watch for when your child hurts their head:

**(Trauma is any time your body is hit, it’s how we term it in the hospital, I couldn’t think of a better way to say it — but this is any head bonk — not when they REALLY hit your head and you KNOW something is worng).

1.  Is the area still firm?  If they have skull fracture, you might be able to feel it, or it may feel mushy (eww, I know).  Just gently palapate (or press) the area.  Is it all firm?

2.  Head trauma swells.  Goose eggs are normal and fine.  You can ice them if that’s something your child is OK with.  Most of mine tended to not want ice in it (and the fight to get the ice on is worse then it would be if I just left it alone).  The ice may help it to be smaller but that’s the only thing you’re doing with ice.  It doesn’t treat an actual issue.

3.  Are they acting OK?  Do they know their name, who their teacher is, just appropriate questions.  Things they readily know the answer to before, they should be fine to answer.  However, my kids tend to be more in the crying until their eyes bleed type situation after this.  They’re not in the mood to answer questions, so this doesn’t always work for me.

4.  Are they vomiting?  Now, if they’re crying their eyes out and suddenly gag on their tears and it makes them heave…. that is something questionable.  BUT, if they throw-up out of the blue, that’s something that needs to head to the doctor, most likely the ER.

5.  PERLA.  Pupils Equally Responsive to Light… Those medical people… they like to make up anacronyms for everything.  If you shine a flashlight in their eyes, the pupil should adjust.  Also, both pupils should be about the same size.  Drew was always checking our kids eyes after they fell, but I haven’t a clue what he was looking for.  This is a pretty slow sign if there’s a problem, you’ll probably notice other things wrong with them before this.

The main thing to watch is if they’re acting normal.  Sure, you’ll have enough tears to clog your bathtub, but after that’s over do they act OK?  If they fall asleep, maybe wake them up after 15 minutes and make sure they’re responsive and all that jazz.

Head trauma can be really serious though, and if you have a question that’s the time to call the doctor.  They’ll give you better/more specific advice, but this is a brief overview.  I hope it’s helpful. :)

Hilary is an RN, BSN who has worked in various medical fields for the past 14 years, however, none of the information on this blog, should be substituted for the care of a physician. The information provided on this blog is informational only and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. If you have questions, please ask your doctor. If you think you have a medical or psychiatric emergency, please call 911. Also, please don’t delay contacting a physician due to something you have read on here. Pulling Curls doesn’t take responsibility for your health. That’s your job. We’re just a nice read.

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  1. says

    I came home from nursing school every day telling my husband that whatever we were studying was “the worst way to die.” The pediatric head trauma unit scarred me as a mother.

  2. Stacy says

    Another quick “test” is to have them walk a short distance (a few feet to across a room depending on age). If they seem to struggle with balance you should probably head to see a doc. My son had a pretty bad fall as a toddler and luckily we had a friend with medical training present. He did the PERLA thing and then had J walk from him to me a few feet away. Being a mom is NOT for the faint of heart.

  3. says

    Thanks for these main pointers – mine little one just had a big fall.. but I think she is ok! Wanted to make sure, as it is bedtime and normally you are supposed to keep them awake! But she seems fine in herself, pupils dilate etc and has fully calmed down!

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