It’s normal for your little one to slip, trip, and hurt themselves as they’re learning to explore the world. This very rarely results in a concussion.
However, while it’s unusual, concussion in babies is really serious. If left untreated, it could develop into a severe brain injury.
And since babies can’t tell you how they feel, you may not realize they have a concussion right away.
You’ll need to watch them closely in the hours and days after the injury to spot any symptoms.
So, what are the signs of a concussion in a baby? How do you check for concussion in a baby? And should a baby sleep after hitting their head? We’ve got the answers here.
In this article 📝
- What is a concussion?
- How to check for concussion in a baby
- What to do if you suspect your baby has a concussion
- How is a concussion treated in babies?
- Can a baby sleep after hitting their head?
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a form of brain injury.
It’s usually the result of a bump or blow that causes the head (and therefore, the brain) to move quickly back and forth. This rapid movement can cause bruising or swelling inside the skull.
While concussions are usually not life-threatening, the effects can be serious.
Most of the time, symptoms begin within 24 hours of the accident. In rare cases, they might not appear for up to three weeks.
How to check for concussion in a baby
If your baby has fallen or rolled off your bed (don’t beat yourself up, mama, it happens to every parent!), you should keep your eye out for these six common baby concussion symptoms:
- Crying when they move their head
- Interrupted sleeping habits – either sleeping less or more than usual
- A large bump or bruise on their head
- Refusing to nurse or eat
Some older toddlers might also tell you if they have a headache, dizziness, or nausea.
Concussion symptoms in kids can also include changes in their behavior, so if they’re not interested in their favorite toys or they’re extra tired, it’s a red flag.
What to do if you suspect your baby has a concussion
How do I know if my baby is OK after hitting their head?
First, it’s important to note that you won’t be sure that they’re okay right away.
Even if there’s no visible damage and they stop crying quite quickly, you’ll need to remember the signs of a concussion in a baby for the next day or two.
Many people wonder when to seek medical help after their baby suffers a head injury.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you should call your doctor for anything more than a light bump on the head.
If your baby is learning to sit up and they fall back onto the carpet, they’re probably not seriously injured.
But as soon as they fall from the furniture, or fall against something solid like a table leg or a step, it’s worth asking for a doctor’s advice on what to do next.
If you think your baby has a concussion, act quickly.
The AAP advises taking your child to the doctor or the emergency room as soon as possible if they’ve suffered a head injury and have:
- Difficulty recognizing familiar people
- Double vision or blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Unusual paleness that lasts for more than an hour
- Unequal pupil size
- Stumbling or difficulty walking
- A constant headache
- A change in their normal behavior (increased irritability or loss of interest)
- Excessive crying
- Persistent ringing in their ears
- Weakness in their arms or legs
- Convulsions (seizures)
Call 911 if your child:
- Falls from a height of greater than 1 meter/3 feet
- Hits their head at speed (for example, in a car crash or bike accident)
Or if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty staying awake
- Clear fluid or blood coming from the nose or ears
- Bruising behind the ears
- A visible head wound, dent to the head, or a bulging soft spot in very young babies.
And always call 911 if you’re unable to get your child to a hospital safely yourself.
How is a concussion treated in babies?
There’s no single test to diagnose concussion in babies.
However, if your doctor is concerned, they’ll probably order a CT or MRI scan to see if there’s any bleeding or swelling inside the brain.
If your child is diagnosed with a concussion, the most important thing to do is to give them time to recover.
Although there’s no specific treatment for concussions, plenty of rest is essential for the healing process.
Babies and young children need a quiet and calm environment with minimal stimulation.
For a few days, daycare and trips to the park are going to be off the agenda.
It’s best to ask people not to visit your home for a while and try to get someone else to look after your baby while you run errands (supermarkets and car journeys are very exciting when you’re small).
It’s also important to limit their screen time.
The CDC says that most children will recover from a concussion in a matter of weeks.
However, you should keep in mind that a full recovery from head trauma can sometimes take longer, depending on the severity of the injury.
In the weeks after the injury, the big red flags are confusion and mood swings, but if you’re worried for any other reason, make an appointment with your doctor.
Can a baby sleep after hitting their head?
It’s a bit of a myth that you have to keep someone with a concussion awake.
In many cases, the opposite is true. Sleep is vital for recovering from a concussion, as it’s the only time the brain really gets to rest.
If your baby has a small bump on the head and doesn’t develop any of the signs or symptoms outlined above, it should be fine to let them nap.
Your doctor might ask you to watch them napping, or check on them more frequently, for the first 24 hours after the accident.
On the other hand, if you think your baby has a serious head injury, do your best to keep them awake while you get medical help.
You can keep them awake by calling their name, rubbing their cheek, or tapping and flicking the soles of their feet.
It’s perfectly normal for babies to bump their heads while exploring and, more often than not, they’re back to their happy, adventurous selves in no time.
However, if they develop any of the symptoms we’ve discussed in this article, phone your doctor for advice or 911 for immediate medical assistance.
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