A head injury is an injury of the scalp, brain or skull. Head injuries can be minor or serious, open or closed. An open injury means that something penetrated the skull. This can happen in a car accident, for example, or from being shot. A closed head injury is a blow to the head, but the skull did not break. Examples of a closed head injury in a baby would be a concussion or trauma caused by shaking the baby.
A baby can get a concussion from a blow to the head or from falling. While scary, most times the effects of a concussion are temporary, and your child completely recovers. If your baby falls, look for signs that indicate a concussion, which are drowsiness, vomiting, irritability, dizziness and clear or bloody drainage from her mouth, ears or nose.
When to Get Help
Call 911 if, after hitting his head, your baby is unconscious, has convulsions or starts to breathe irregularly. If your baby is bleeding, while you wait for help, cover the area with a clean cloth, applying some pressure. If your baby stops breathing, perform CPR by tilting your baby’s head back, lifting his head slightly and giving him two little breaths that last one second each. Do this by covering your baby’s nose and mouth with your mouth. Exhale only enough to see his chest rise. If, the day after your baby hit his head, he has persistent vomiting, take him to the doctor. If he is unusually sleepy or seems weak, you should also take him in.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Babies can also suffer head injuries from trauma caused by shaking, a form of child abuse. Sometimes, parents or caregivers become frustrated with a crying baby and shake her to get her to stop. The baby may stop crying, but you may have caused brain damage. Shaking moves a baby’s brain around in the skull, damaging brain tissue or causing bruising and bleeding to the brain. If the person shaking the baby throws the baby down in anger afterward, the impact can cause swelling inside the skull.
Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome
Signs of shaken baby syndrome are vomiting, lethargy, irritability, poor sucking, decreased appetite, seizures, altered consciousness, difficulty breathing, unequal pupil size, an inability to track movement or an inability to lift his head. It’s important you bring your baby to a doctor if you suspect your baby has been a victim of shaken baby syndrome. The doctor can check for hemorrhaging in the eyes, a skull fracture and blood pressing on the brain.
Prevent Head Injuries
Prevent your child from having an accidental head injury by having an appropriate car seat for your baby, by having a childproofed and safe environment and by supervising your child. Shaken baby syndrome is completely preventable. If you feel stress and frustration from a crying baby, put the baby on her back in her crib and close the door for 10 minutes while you calm down. Then, if your baby is not hungry, swaddle her snugly and gently rock or walk her. If nothing works, call your doctor.