What do you do when your child has a fall (besides panic)? Jill Lim faced this very question when her baby, Lily, took a nasty bump to the head. Here’s everything she learned from the experience and top tips if you face a similar scenario...
It finally happened; Lily had a fall and landed straight on her head. She was ten months-old and crying. I was 31 and crying. It sounded like an egg cracking. We have a sliver of unpadded floor at home, and of course, that would be where she fell. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but at the same time, I couldn’t have done anything about it. Down she went. At first, I was too terrified to pick her up as I waited for the blood. Luckily there was none, but there was a golf ball-sized bump on her head. I went cold. What was I meant to do now?
Spoiler alert – Lily was, thankfully, absolutely fine. But the experience was terrifying. From it, I’ve learned so much in terms of what to look out for when it comes to head injuries in kids. Here are some top tips and things to note if you face a similar situation…
ADVICE AND TIPS ON WHAT TO DO IF YOUR KID SUFFERS A HEAD INJURY
Many parents, myself included, fixate on the child having a fever after a fall. While this might happen, please take note of the 5 B’s as these are the red flags when it comes to head injuries.
The 5 B’s – what to look out for in head injuries in kids:
1. Bleeding or discharge from nose or ears
2. Barfing more than three times a day
3. Balance (problems with balancing/coordination)
4. Blurred vision or memory loss
5. Behavioural changes (for 72 hours)
If you’re concerned and decide to take your child to the hospital, don’t be alarmed if they don’t do X-rays or CT scans. X-rays are seldom done because they don’t rule out actual brain injury or internal bleeding. Although CT scans do help in spotting bleeding or clots, there’s also a high level of radiation to consider in a young child. Will they admit your child? Providing the fall wasn’t from a significant height, and there are no red flags and no suspicious circumstances, many children are discharged after a short period of observation to check if they can eat and play well.
Does it matter which part of the head they hit?
I spoke to Dr Jade Kua, a senior consultant in emergency medicine and visiting consultant at a paediatric hospital, to get the lowdown. The answer? No. She explained that hypothetically, if the child fell on a “less important” part of their skull but still sustained traumatic injuries and developed seizures as a result, that still isn’t good. Likewise, while there are “thicker” areas of the skull, a drop on those parts could still mean internal bleeding.
Does the age of the child matter?
Very young children (0-3 months) might get admitted to hospital after a fall, but if they’re under two with basic verbal skills, you could just keep an eye on their behaviour (providing you haven’t seen anything to suggest a severe injury). Key things to look out for include whether they are sleeping well, eating well, and playing well. That’s not to say older children need less monitoring. On the contrary, they might receive more monitoring. It comes down to the scenario, the severity of the fall, and the watch-out for signs highlighted above.
Five things to remember when head injuries occur with little ones:
1. Remember this is common
Head trauma in children is one of the top injuries, often due to the disproportion in head to body size. They are commonly sustained at home – so don’t panic.
2. Don’t play the blame game
I’ve seen couples who, out of panic and fear, immediately start blaming each other. “How could you let this happen?”, “Why weren’t you watching her?”. No one wants their child to get hurt, but it’s impossible to be there every second. You did your best. When I first called my husband to let him know what happened, his first question was, “Why didn’t you catch her?”. I was furious and guilt-ridden. I just hung up. Once he got home though, he was calm and reassured me that Lily was fine; these things happen and that it could have happened on anyone’s watch.
3. Don’t over ice
I didn’t have those gel cooling pads, which would have been ideal. Using ice wrapped in a towel didn’t work well either. Instead, I let Lily play with an ice cube in a bowl and used a bag of frozen peas. Five minutes later, the bump was barely visible.
4. Your baby still loves you
Aside from fear, I didn’t want to pick Lily up when she fell because I just felt horrible and guilty. When I eventually did, I gave her to my helper. Surprisingly, Lily reached back for me. She wanted me to hold her and soothe her. I was the cause of her pain, but she wanted me to help her feel better. Accidents will happen (see point 2. – no blame!).
5. Know what to do
As I was Googling post-fall, I remembered Dr Jade Kua’s Youtube channel, which has bite-sized facts on what to look out for when faced with accidents. One was dedicated to head injuries in kids and how they should be treated. The videos are short and to the point (which made it perfect to digest in my frenzied state). I’ve got the benefit of hindsight now, but being equipped with first aid knowledge of what to do in unfortunate circumstances is so important. Don’t leave it until it happens; make time to get clued up beforehand.
And remember, above all else – don’t panic!