As parents, we watch our children fall down and get back up countless times in their lives. The majority of the time, an ice pack and some TLC are all that’s needed to help them recover. But when your child takes a major fall and bumps his or her head or has a head-on collision, the problem can be more alarming.
A head injury can be a concussion, which affects how the brain functions. A concussion can affect brain tasks like memory, balance, concentration, judgement, and coordination. On the other end of the head injury spectrum, there may be bleeding or bruising in the brain, which can very quickly become life-threatening. The important thing is to know where to go so your child can receive the immediate care he or she needs.
When to Go to the ER with a Head Injury
Go to the emergency room if your child loses consciousness after a head injury, even if only for a minute. Other danger signs that warrant a 911 call include:
- A severe headache or a headache that gets progressively worse
- Confusion, difficulty remembering things or recognizing people or places
- Drowsiness or change in alertness
- Neck pain
- Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs
- Shaking, twitching or other seizure activity
- Slurred speech
You may want to consider going to an emergency department specifically designed for children. For instance, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children-designated ERs (there are seven in metro Denver) offer kid-sized equipment, pediatric specialists on staff, and a cheerful decor. We also provide highly effective pain management for children and close communication with the child’s primary care doctor.
When to See the Doctor
Concussions are serious and should be medically treated, but they aren’t life-threatening. You should call your child’s physician if your child has experienced a blow, fall or jolt and:
- Has a headache
- Has nausea
- Experiences changes in vision, such as double vision or blurry vision
- Is sensitive to light or noise
- Feels foggy or slow
- Acts irritable, anxious, sad or shows other changes in behavior
If your child has been diagnosed with a concussion by his or her pediatrician and does not get better after one to two weeks or has severe symptoms, call and make an appointment at the Rocky Mountain Youth Center for Concussion. We now have medical treatments to help our patients get better more quickly. We work with experts, including neurologists, psychologists, physical therapists, cardiologists, psychiatrists and others, who provide individualized treatment plans to help children recover.
Every time a child visits our clinic, we also update the child’s school with specific recommendations on what they can do to help the child’s recovery in the classroom. This way, we’re making sure that the child’s recovery is being supported in all aspects of his or her daily life.
Learn more about concussions in children and view my video about the signs and symptoms of concussions in children here. If you’re ever in doubt about your child’s health, contact your child’s pediatrician.
About Dr. Susan B. Kirelik
Dr. Kirelik has been dedicated to helping kids recover from head injuries and pediatric emergency medicine since 1992. She was instrumental in building HealthONE’s emergency department concussion program. In 2003, Dr. Kirelik joined Sky Ridge Medical Center as director of pediatric emergency services and chair of the Department of Pediatrics. In 2013, she became the clinical director of the Youth Center for Concussion and continues to work as a pediatric emergency physician at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. Outside of the ER, Dr. Kirelik enjoys gardening and a busy life with her husband and three children. To make an appointment, call (303) 861-2663 or schedule online at rockymountainorthopedics.com.