How to Identify Toddler or Infant Head Injury Signs, A Parent’s Guide

Child head injuries get lots of attention in the sports arena, but concussions aren’t limited to young athletes and high school football players. Infants and toddlers also are prone to head injury. This is especially true as infants and young toddlers begin to crawl, walk and explore the world around them.

Seeing your baby “bonk” his or her head on the floor or coffee table is likely to send shivers down your spine and spike your anxiety levels. Fortunately, most of these incidents are minor and do not result in any serious or permanent trauma. Below is a guide to recognizing toddler or infant head injury and what to do if you suspect trauma.

Spills, Falls and Bumps

Falls are a common risk for head injuries in young children. This is due, in part, to a child’s relatively high center of gravity, owing to the large size of his or her head as compared to the rest of the body. Infants also lack the neck muscles to control their heads in the same manner as adults.

Close Observation after a Fall

If your baby has experienced a minor fall or bump to the head, closely monitor his or her behavior for at least 24 hours after the incident. This will help alert you to any important changes in behavior and help you know if medical attention is necessary.

Signs and Symptoms of Serious Infant Head Injury

As parents, we’re often tempted to call the doctor at every sign of illness or injury. While most bumps to the head are minor and require no medical attention, a serious head injury necessitates quick intervention.

Some of the signs of concussion or serious head injury include:

  • swelling;
  • vomiting;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • any sign or indication of head injury in a baby 12 months or younger;
  • blood at the point of injury or elsewhere on the face or head;
  • your child appears to be in pain (excessive fussing, crying, irritability);
  • any indications of skull fracture (change in appearance in the skull);
  • drowsiness (trouble rousing the baby using the typical methods); and
  • clear or bloody fluids originating from the ears, nose, or mouth.

Know When to Call 911. Call emergency medical personnel if your baby:

  • experiences irregular breathing;
  • starts convulsing; or
  • is unconscious.

Do not move your child if he or she displays any of these symptoms (unless he or she is in imminent danger). Unnecessary movements may worsen any neck or spinal injuries that accompany a head injury.

Other Sources of Infant Head Injury

Auto accidents are another potential cause of head injury. A full medical exam is a good idea after even the most minor fender-bender (such as an accident in a store parking lot). Caretaker abuse is another source of serious and possibly fatal infant head injury. You may have the right to civil and criminal action if a babysitter or daycare worker subjects your child to physical abuse.