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A Bump on the Head: How to Tell If It's Serious

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At one point or another, all kids knock themselves on the noggin. Fortunately, most of these knocks cause more parental alarm than actual harm, despite impressive-looking goose eggs. Generally, for a head injury to be serious, a child must either fall more than four feet, be thrown a distance, land on something with a sharp edge, or be purposely hit with something by a large person. But it's always good to know what to look for when a head knock occurs.

Symptoms to Watch for

A concussion may occur after a head bump. Symptoms range from subtle to obvious but do not usually include loss of consciousness. All kids with concussions need to see a doctor right away and be observed for a period of time. Other worrisome signs to look for after a head injury include:

  • vomiting more than three times right after the injury, or once four to six hours afterward;
  • clear fluid or blood coming from the ear or nose;
  • abrupt onset of severe ear pain right after the injury;
  • bad headache that persists more than an hour;
  • complaints of dizziness or of blurred or double vision;
  • difficulty staying awake and confusion and incoherent speech when woken;
  • staying sweaty and pale;
  • irregular or funny breathing. 

If any of these symptoms are present, bring your child to a physician or an emergency room right away.

What to Expect

Remember that it's perfectly natural for a child to be upset after she’s received a bump. You can expect her to be clingy and to want to rest. You're the one who knows your child best, so you’re in the best position to judge whether her behavior is any cause for worry. What you're looking for is an essential change or a real downturn, over hours or days that is very different from how your child normally behaves.

 

 
 

 
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