Young children can hit their head in many types of accidents, from collisions in contact sports to car accidents. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can cause any number of issues for people, from headaches to memory loss, but the effects on children may be slightly different.
As a parent, you should be aware of the symptoms of head injuries so that you know what signs to watch for after an accident.
Children ages zero to four
Children in this age group face the highest risk of a TBI, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Unfortunately, knowing when your very young child has sustained a head injury may be difficult because he or she does not have the vocabulary to describe symptoms to you.
You may be able to tell there is a problem if your child is sleeping more or less than usual, irritable and crying, or restless. Other common signs of a TBI are more difficult to detect at this age, such as:
- Blurry vision,
- Balance issues,
- Communication difficulty
- Impaired concentration
If you know your child sustained a bump on the head, you should consider medical attention. A jolt such as whiplash can cause the brain to bounce against the inside of the skull, so an event such as a car accident typically warrants a trip to the doctor for little ones, even if there is no sign of a bump or bruise.
Symptoms common in children older than four years of age
Impairments caused by a TBI generally affect three different areas. Your child could have physical, mental and emotional issues as a result of the damage. In addition to those mentioned above, the following symptoms could become apparent:
- Poor coordination
- Limited attention span
- Difficulty reading, writing or planning
- Anxiety or depression
- Low self-esteem
Your child could also become moody and have difficulty controlling emotions, or lose interest in activities that used to be favorites. Even if symptoms show up long after the TBI, they could still be related.
One of the major differences between a TBI in a child and the same injury in an adult occurs due to brain development stages. The impaired functions of the brain that you would notice immediately because you are used to performing these may be delayed by years in children.
For example, your child might not need to process certain types of information in third grade, but the ability to grasp concepts in high school may be essential. Once your child gets to that point, the damage may become apparent, but the years between the injury and the symptoms can get in the way of diagnosis and treatment.
Because of the potential for long-term effects on your child, you should consider follow-up checkups at intervals after the injury to ensure that neurological functions are not impaired. When the accident happened because of another person’s negligence or carelessness, you may be entitled to compensation to help cover the medical expenses.