The goal of treating a child's head injury is to provide first aid, make the child comfortable and observe him for signs that he needs to see a doctor. Some head injuries are relatively minor, heal quickly and do not require professional medical care. Others can be severe enough to threaten a child’s health or even his life.
If a child loses consciousness after a blow to the head, it’s best to call for emergency help right away, allowing him to lie flat while awaiting medical help. If it appears that his neck has been injured, he shouldn’t be moved at all until trained medical professionals arrive on the scene and move him. When a child is unconscious and not breathing, someone should perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Some children have convulsions after head injuries, and it’s important the keep the airway unobstructed if this occurs. A doctor should perform an examination and decide whether or not to treat a child's head injury, even if he’s only unconscious for seconds; this is a better-safe-than-sorry approach.
As you treat a child's head injury, you may notice bleeding from a cut or scrape. The face and scalp have many blood vessels, so it may seem to bleed quite a bit. In most cases, a child won’t lose a dangerous amount of blood from a minor-to-moderate blow to the head. If the child has a large gash or seems to need stitches, a trip to a doctor may be in order. Regardless of whether stitches are needed, a parent or caregiver should apply gentle pressure to the wound using a clean cloth. This will help to stop the bleeding.
If a child cries immediately after a bump on the head and a parent or caregiver knows he didn’t black out, it’s okay to treat a child's head injury at home. Placing an ice pack on the area may minimize the bump that will form and may even help the injured area to feel better. Once the child is calm and able to swallow or chew medicine, giving him a dose of children’s acetaminophen may help to relieve any head pain that may develop.
When you treat a child's head injury, it’s important to observe the child for changes in behavior and alertness. Parents or caregivers should attempt to keep the child awake for at least one hour after the injury occurs and watch to make sure he is able to walk, talk and function properly. Once the first hour has passed, it may be okay to allow the child to nap for 20 minutes at a time, observing him regularly. Watch also for mental changes, loss of balance, severe headaches and inconsolable crying that continue long after the initial trauma—they may be a signs of a problem. Vomiting three or more times after a blow to the head warrants a trip to a doctor or emergency room as well.