If you’re the parent, guardian, or caretaker of a child (or children) then you know just how vulnerable they are to injury. It’s common for them to get scrapes, cuts, and bruises during a day in the park, but more serious accidents, such as those resulting in traumatic brain injuries, are also more common than you might expect.
Traumatic brain injuries from falls and car accidents are the leading cause of death and disability in American children and adolescents. Knowing how to identify these injuries and familiarizing yourself with the dangers and risk factors associated with them can ensure the safety and protection of the children in your life.
Traumatic Brain Injury, otherwise known as TBI, is defined by the CDC as “a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal functions of the brain.” Traumatic brain injuries result in permanent neurological damage that, even when not severe, can produce life-altering effects and deficits.
While many traumatic brain injuries occur as accidents, there are some steps you can take to prevent those accidents from happening or to lessen their harmful effects.
Use an Appropriate Child Booster Seat
Car accidents are a leading cause of Traumatic Brain Injury in children. Infants and children have weaker necks and torsos than adults, which makes them very susceptible to injury, especially during collisions. Making sure that your child is strapped into a booster seat appropriate for their size and age can prevent them from serious harm in case of a collision or sudden stop.
Make Sure They Wear a Helmet
Wearing a helmet is essential in protecting a child’s head during sports and outdoor activities. Helmets should always be worn when on a bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, snowmobile, or another unrestrained vehicle. Children should also wear helmets during activities such as horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, skating, rollerblading or skateboarding.
Secure Your Home Appropriately
There are many things that can be dangerous to children within our own homes. Our furniture, for example, should always be secured to prevent it from falling over on our children. Setting up barriers before stairs or windows to prevent children from falling is also a good way to prevent traumatic brain injury.
Provide Safe Seating
Securing where your child sits can prevent them from a bad fall. If your child is young, it is best to sit them in safe stools made for children where there is little foot traffic so that no one can bump into the stool and flip it over.
Store Weapons Out Of Reach
Kids are fairly curious and, when left unsupervised, they can quickly get into things that may put them at risk. If you are a gun owner, it is extremely important to keep the weapons, unloaded, in a locked case. For best security, store the ammunition separately. Make sure to always keep the key close to you or in a secure location that your child does not have access to.
The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury are often varied. In the case of a mild traumatic brain injury, the symptoms may not be felt until days or weeks after an injury and the symptoms are often too subtle to be noticeable. Children who experience mild traumatic brain injuries may not experience any side effects until years later as they attempt to learn more complex cognitive skills and social interactions.
The symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury may include:
Dizziness/loss of balance
Feelings of depression
Loss of smell
Sensitivity to light and sounds
Getting lost or confused
Slowness in thinking
The symptoms of a severe traumatic brain injury may be affect a child’s senses (vision, touch, taste, hearing, speech) as well as their cognition, perception, and social-emotional interactions. Symptoms include:
Spasticity of muscles
Short-term memory loss
Lack of motivation
Difficulty controlling emotions
No matter whether a traumatic brain injury is mild or severe, the effects are permanent, serious, life-altering, and may require physical or cognitive rehabilitation, and/or medication to help manage long-term symptoms such as anxiety and/or seizures.
If you think your child may have suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is important that they be taken to a hospital. For outpatient procedures regarding the treatment and follow-up testing of traumatic brain injuries, book an appointment to see one of our specialized radiologists.