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A head injury is any kind of trauma involving the scalp, skull or brain. Fortunately, the skull and brain covering are both formidable sources of protection, meaning that not all head injuries will have an effect on the brain.
There are several different types of head and brain injuries. Nearly every child will experience some type of scalp injury in her life—whether it’s from tripping and falling, being struck with an object, bumping into something or otherwise “whacking” her head.
Because the scalp has so many blood vessels, even a small cut might bleed profusely, and even the mildest impact might produce a scary-looking bump. Thankfully, the vast majority of these injuries are just surface wounds, and will heal within a matter of days.
However, you should always seek immediate medical attention if your child loses consciousness (even momentarily), vomits or exhibits changes in behavior after a cut, scrape or bump on the head. Learn more in our “Signs and Symptoms” section below.
Virtually any type of trauma can cause a head injury or brain injury in a child. The most common causes are:
The following list contains the most common symptoms of a head injury. However, it’s critical to recognize that each child may experience symptoms differently, depending on the exact circumstances and severity of his injury. Be sure to seek professional medical attention to get the right diagnosis and care plan for your child.
Symptoms of a mild head injury
Symptoms of a moderate to severe head injury
All of the above, plus:
Always seek immediate medical treatment if your child displays any of these warning signs.
Q: Will my child be OK?
A: The severity of a head injury can vary widely, depending on:
The most important thing you can do for your child is to seek prompt medical attention from a qualified professional. The earlier a head injury is diagnosed and treated, the better the general outlook.
Q: How common are pediatric brain injuries?
A: The Brain Injury Association of America reports that nearly 650,000 children sustain brain injuries each year.
Q: Can head injuries/brain injuries be prevented?
A: Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent a head or brain injury: There is no type of headgear or rollbar that offers 100-percent protection.
However, there are several steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your child suffering a head injury:
Q: What do the terms “open head injury” and “closed head injury” mean?
A: An open head injury means that the scalp has been penetrated. A closed head injury involves a hard blow that does not pierce the scalp.
Q: What do I need to look out for once my child has been diagnosed with a head injury?
A: Parents of children diagnosed with a head injury should always be watchful for changes in their child’s:
Q: Is there a cure for a head or brain injury?
A: The answer hinges on the type of injury sustained. Mild to moderate head and brain injuries can resolve completely, or with minimal complications, with time, rest and proper medical care. Unfortunately, severe brain injuries may cause permanent damage.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”