Toddlers are just learning to walk, run, and jump. As such, they typically have more opportunities to bump their heads than older children. Knowing how to treat a toddler head injury can be very important for parents and caregivers. Treating this type of injury requires an adult to assess the injury, provide first aid, and decide whether or not professional medical care is needed.
When treating a toddler head injury, the adult in charge should look for signs of serious injury. Such signs include excessive bleeding, bleeding from the eyes, nose, or ears, difficulty breathing or talking, paralysis of any part of the body, and passing out. He should also look for injuries to other parts of the body, such as bones of the extremities, the spine, and the neck. If the adult suspects an injury is more serious than a bump on the head, he should call for emergency medical help at once. If the child's neck is injured, he should not move the child while he waits for medical help to arrive.
If there are no immediate signs of serious injury, an adult may begin to treat a toddler head injury at home. Holding an ice pack, at 20-minute intervals, to the bumped part of the head may help lessen swelling. If the child is bleeding, the adult in charge may use a clean cloth to press against the area and encourage the bleeding to stop. This method typically works for scrapes and superficial cuts on a child’s face or scalp. If the adult notes a large gash or puncture, he may use a cloth to compress and the area to attempt to stop the bleeding, but he should call for emergency medical help as well.
Many toddlers experience headaches following head injuries. A dose of acetaminophen may help in such a case. It’s important to read the bottle for proper dosing information or consult a doctor before giving a toddler this medication.
While it's possible to treat a toddler head injury at home, an adult should continue to observe the child for warning signs after making him comfortable. This means noting whether he is mentally alert and talking or acting normally. While he may not want to play if he’s been hurt or frightened by the injury, he shouldn’t appear lethargic, more difficult to understand than normal, or unable to focus with his eyes.
Even after the critical first aid period has passed, it may still be necessary for a doctor or emergency room staff to treat a toddler head injury. If the child vomits more than twice, seems unable to understand what people are saying to him, or has difficulty keeping his balance, he needs medical evaluation. Likewise, if he has severe head pain, cries continuously for more than an hour, or is unusually pale, a trip to a doctor or the emergency room is probably a good idea.