The first time my baby had a bad fall, I went into sheer panic mode. He was thirteen months old and learning how to walk. His head and shoulders often leaned slightly frontward and when his feet could not catch up with his body it was head first into the nearest object.
I did my best to follow him around removing any obstacles in his way. I put corner safety bumpers on all my tables and locks on all the cabinets. One day, as we were getting ready for a much needed nap, the baby took off and I quickly followed behind. I watched him trip over a toy and land face first into the bottom corner of the television stand. Remember when I said I had corner safety covers?
Well, of course I only put them on the tops of the tables and not the bottom. His eye broke his fall right on the bottom edge and there was so much blood! I grabbed some ice and towels and drove straight to the emergency room with one hand on the wheel and one hand reaching behind me attempting to hold ice on the baby.
Yes, I now know that was a terrible idea. In all my efforts to keep my baby safe I was just so upset that he was hurt so badly. All I could think about was that I hoped his vision was okay. In the ten minutes it took us to get to the hospital the bleeding had stopped. I held ice on him in the waiting room and by the time we saw a nurse the swelling had gone down almost completely. It turns out the emergency room trip was totally unnecessary. There was nothing they could do to help my baby. I put him through so much more by throwing him in the car instead of comforting him and making him sit in a waiting room instead of giving him a nap. The nurse gave me some papers to educate and explain when it was necessary to see a doctor. I always say I would rather be safe than sorry. In this case it turns out I was both. I was safe by getting my baby checked out but I was also very sorry when my husband got the ER bill!
There are many signs and symptoms to look for after baby’s first fall. In a moment of crisis we do not have time to do an internet search of our baby’s symptoms. It’s best to be prepared for a fall before it happens. Being prepared will help relieve the natural panic reaction that many parents have. A first aid kit and ice packs are essential to have from the time baby comes home. Knowing the seriousness of our babies’ symptoms will save us from making unnecessary emergency room trips. It can also save our babies when we know something isn’t right and get them to a doctor. Keep reading to better prepare yourself for the inevitable first fall.
15 Loss Of Consciousness
There is no doubt that the situation is serious if a child loses consciousness. Even if it is just for a moment your child still needs to be seen by a doctor. Unconsciousness can be caused by several different factors, but after a fall, head injuries are responsible for many cases. If the injury appears to be serious and your child is not regaining consciousness call for help immediately and DO NOT move your child unless it is necessary to get them out of harm’s way. Watch his or her breathing and pulse until emergency help arrives.
A baby does not have to completely lose consciousness to have a head injury. If they seem weak, confused, or are having problems with coordination a head injury may have occurred and they should still be seen by a doctor. Continue reading and you will find all the symptoms of a possible head injury.
14 Clear Fluid
Call for help or get to the nearest emergency room if there are any signs of clear fluid coming from the ears, nose or mouth. This colorless fluid is called Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The clear fluid surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Its main purpose is to cushion and protect the brain from any harm. A severe blow to the head can tear blood vessels or knock the brain into the side of the skull releasing CSF. When CSF is released your little one may also experience a headache, vision changes or hearing loss.
Internal head injuries can be life threatening. Most head injuries start with a conservative treatment that includes bedrest and no heavy lifting. In the more severe cases of a CSF leak it could require surgery to fix the problem. Surgical treatment is often used after a conservative treatment has failed to help. Leaking CSF could mean your little one has a skull fracture.
13 Skull Fracture
There are four different types of skull fractures to look out for:
A linear skull fracture causes a break in the bone but does not move the bone. Children with this type of fracture will be observed in the hospital for a short amount of time. Typically, they no do need intervention and can usually resume normal activity after a few days of rest.
Depressed skull fractures can be seen with or without a cut on the head. Trauma will cause part of the skull to be sunken in. If the skull is sunken in enough to touch the brain, it may require surgical intervention.
Diastatic skull fractures are often seen in newborns and infants. The areas between the bones that are fused together with growth are called suture lines. In a diastatic skull fracture the suture lines will widen or spread out.
A basilar skull fracture is among the most serious types of skull fractures. It consist of a break in the bone at the base of the skull. With this fracture you will see bruising around the eyes and behind the ears. There may also be clear fluid draining from the ears, nose or mouth. These children will require close observation in the hospital.
12 Irregular Breathing
Monitor any changes in breathing after a head injury or any major trauma. Your baby may have more rapid or shallow breathing than normal. Their breathing may stop for ten to twenty seconds at a time. You may also see your baby gasping for air. Any of these symptoms need to be monitored very closely. It is best to call a doctor and explain the symptoms or get to the nearest ER if you see any breathing changes occur after a fall.
Remember that irregular breathing is common in newborns. If their color and breathing patterns seem normal then it’s okay to let them sleep. When they fall into a deep sleep after a trauma it is usually accompanied by irregular breathing. They often alternate between fast and slow breathing with occasional pausing. Forty-four breaths per minute is a normal breathing rate for an infant. A normal breathing rate for a healthy adult is eight to sixteen breaths per minute.
11 Uneven Pupils
Uneven pupils is a big warning sign that a head trauma has occurred. If one or both pupils of the eye are enlarged get to a doctor immediately! Head trauma can cause the pressure inside the brain to increase quickly due to bleeding. As the brain shifts down it may sit on some of the nerves that control the eyes. The side of the face that has the enlarged pupil is usually the side that has the bleeding. Once this process starts it is difficult to undo so it's important to catch it quickly. Uneven pupils after a fall are a clear sign that head trauma has occurred.
A side note to keep in mind is that some people naturally have uneven pupils. The medical term for this condition is called physiological anisocoria. People who are born with anisocoria typically don’t have anything to worry about. You want to focus on any changes the pupils may have after the fall.
10 Loss Of Coordination
Difficulty with coordination and/or balance could mean a possible concussion. Concussions are a mild traumatic brain injury and are not taken lightly in adults or children. Doctors have been increasingly worried about second impact syndrome, which is when your child gets a second bump or head trauma before the first one is healed. The second hit can have a more lasting effect and can even be fatal. If you think you child could have a concussion monitor their symptoms and call a doctor. Symptoms may take a few days to appear.
The treatment for a concussion varies depending on the severity of the concussion. In a severe case an MRI and/or an EEG test will be done to determine if surgical intervention is necessary. In most cases, a concussion will not require surgery or major medical intervention. The doctor may suggest that you awaken your child every two to three hours to be sure they have not fallen into a coma. Waking them will also give you a chance to check for any other occurring symptoms. Tylenol can be given to help with headaches caused by a concussion. Physical activity is prohibited and lots of rest is encouraged.
If your baby is especially drowsy or difficult to arouse after sleep that could be another sign of a concussion or head injury. Call your doctor and let them know what happened and if they are showing any other symptoms. If your baby does in fact have a head injury they will likely have other symptoms to accompany the drowsiness. If everything else seems normal the doctor will probably tell you that it is okay to let your baby take a nap. They will need to rest after experiencing a trauma. It takes a lot of energy out of our little ones. The trauma its self, the fit, the cries, and the emotional toll can be exhausting. It is a good idea to wake them up every few hours to monitor any symptoms or changes. If the fall required an emergency room trip or doctors visit then fatigue will intensify due to the long day.
An inconsolable baby can mean a lot of different things. We spend the first few months of their lives trying to figure out what those cries mean. Experts suggest seeing a doctor if your baby cries for more than three hours in a row. When nothing will sooth them in a three hour chunk of time then your baby is telling you that something is not right. If your baby had a fall and won’t stop crying you may want to see a doctor just to be safe. They could appear to be fine on the outside but they could have a head injury or internal injuries.
Missing an internal injury could cause your baby to go into shock. Rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, cool and sweaty skin, and confusion are all signs of shock. Hypovolemic shock occurs when there is not enough blood circulating through the body. If your little one loses too much blood their organs will not function properly. Catching the signs of an internal injury can save your baby before shock occurs.
Vomiting immediately after a fall can be harmless, especially if your child is upset or has a tendency to get motion sickness. However, if the vomiting continues for six to twenty-four hours after the injury and will not stop it could mean something more serious. Blood in the vomit can also be a sign of an internal injury and is a sure sign that an emergency room trip is necessary. Call 911 if there are accompanying symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, increased heart rate, confusion or fainting, abdominal pain, cool or clammy skin.
The blood in the vomit can be bright red, dark red or brown. It’s important to not the color of the blood because it can help the medical professionals discover the source and severity of the bleeding. A doctor may order image testing to look inside the body and get a better idea of what is going on. The more common imaging tests include a CT scan, endoscopy, ultrasound, X-ray and MRI.
A seizure is common in children who have just had a brain injury. The most important thing to remember during a seizure is to keep your child's air way open. There are many types of seizures, but some of the more common to look out for are generalised seizures, which will cause convulsions, shaking all over, crying, falling, or losing consciousness and control of their bowels. During an absence seizure the child will have a blank stare without losing consciousness. They could also show signs by twitching facial muscles. It is possible to have a partial seizure. An involuntary body or facial jerk could mean a partial seizure. Make sure to let your doctor know if there are any signs of a seizure or partial seizure after a recent head injury.
If your child is showing signs of a seizure and they have not had any recent trauma talk to your doctor about testing them for epilepsy. Sometimes medication will be prescribed to prevent more seizures from happening.
5 Heavy Bleeding
When do I need to seek help from a professional? If the wound won’t stop bleeding after five to ten minutes of holding pressure on it or if you can see that the cut is deep and/or wide. Cuts that won’t stop bleeding on the neck or face are more serious. Also cuts filled with glass or other debris will need to be cleaned and treated by a professional.
On your way to the emergency room keep pressure on the wound with a clean dry cloth. You can give your child acetaminophen(Tylenol) for the pain. Let the ER know the time of day and dosage of any medication given to your child. NEVER give ibuprofen because it can increase bleeding.
Lucky for us, most of our children’s cuts and scrapes can be cured with a character band-aid and some kisses. Although, sometimes the cuts are more serious and need to be treated by a professional.
4 Bump On The Head
Believe it or not a bump on the head can actually be a good sign. If you can see the bump on the outside it’s not likely that there will be any internal head injuries. If your child doesn’t seem too upset grab an ice pack and hold it on the bump to reduce swelling. It might look bad but it is most likely just a scalp injury and they will be fine. Some minor injuries will bleed a lot while a major injury might not bleed at all. Continue to monitor them for any symptoms of a head injury for the next twenty-four hours.
A minor bump on the head can be treated with Tylenol and an ice pack. Remember to stay away from any anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, because it can make any bleeding worse. Even if the injury is mild it is still a good idea to watch for any developing symptoms. When in doubt, treat all head injuries as a serious injury.
Use an ice pack and apply moderate pressure to constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling. Most of the time swollen areas can be treated at home. In many cases after a fall a swollen area will be accompanied with bruising. The bruise will be sensitive to the touch. A bruise will go through stages. It begins as a pink or red color, then changes to a black and blue color, followed by a green-yellow color before finally returning to normal skin colors. Swelling and bruising can occur on almost any part of the body that has recently had trauma.
If there is swelling and/or bruising that is tender to the touch that could mean a broken bone. It’s very common for children to get a broken bone. If there are any suspicions of a broken bone you will need to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Your baby will need an X-ray to determine if there are any broken bones or fractures.
2 Broken Bones
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, broken bones are one of the most common injuries in children under six. Sometimes, broken bones can be hard to spot but there are some signs to keep in mind. Swelling and bruising along with pain on the area that is sensitive to the touch. They may or may not be able to move the limb. If there is mobility it will be painful and difficult. If there is a break so severe that it punctures the skin do not move your child and call 911. If you do have to move your child, do your best to keep the limb steady. You can wrap the arm with a towel or bandage or make a homemade splint. Use something firm such as a ruler or rolled up newspaper and wrap it all in place with a bandage or scarf (whatever you can find) until you get to the emergency room.
1 Use Those Instincts
Parental instincts are a real thing. You will know when there is something wrong and you will know when everything is okay. My husband is a nurse. When I tell him our son has a fever he always asks, “What is his temperature?” I don’t know the numbers, I just know that my baby feels hot to the touch and his temperature is elevated more than normal. I call my hand the mom-thermometer. I think it’s clever, he does not. He’s a more accurate guy and put my mom-thermometer to the test. Our son woke up in the middle of the night burning up. Of course I didn’t take the time to check his temperature I just grabbed the Tylenol, gave him a dose, let him crawl in my bed and rubbed his back until he fell back asleep.
The next morning my husband asked the predictable question, “Why didn’t you take his temperature?” My response, I knew he was hot and I knew what I needed to do. I also knew that he wasn’t hot enough to be considered an emergency or in danger. I guessed he was around 102 degrees in the middle of the night and 100 degrees in the morning. While we had no way of knowing how accurate my mom-thermometer was in the middle of the night we tested it out in the morning and it was spot on! Maybe I just got lucky but the moral of this story is to trust your gut. Parental instincts came with your child so use them! If your baby isn’t showing any obvious symptoms but you feel it in your gut that something isn’t right then go see a doctor, get a second opinion if necessary. No one knows your baby better than you!