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Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), called concussions when mild, cause significant numbers of injuries and deaths in the United States every year. The effects of such an injury can last for a few days or a lifetime. When impact to the head is forceful enough to disrupt brain activity, the consequences can be severe.

From nausea to loss of consciousness, symptoms of TBIs should be investigated immediately when they follow a recent blow or injury to the head. Adults are typically able to ask for and receive assistance if they suspect a deeper injury. However, when young children suffer TBIs, the situation is complicated due to a lack of communication skills. Unfortunately, children under the age of four are among the highest risk population for TBIs.

Why are young children at such high risk for TBIs?

According to the Center for Disease Control, falls are the most common cause of TBIs, accounting for almost half of all emergency department visits. Falls are incredibly common among children ages 0-4, as they are becoming more and more active, learning to move and walk. It’s no surprise this population has many reported cases of TBIs. Also, parents of children this age tend to be cautious and get their child evaluated if there is even a chance of injury.

What signs might indicate a TBI?

Although your child may not yet be a great verbal communicator, there are ways to watch for head injuries. Symptoms don’t always present immediately after an incident. It could be a day or two later. If your child accidentally hits their head or falls, look out for these indicators that something is wrong in the aftermath:

  • Significant appetite changes
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness

When should you take your child to the doctor?

If you notice behavioral changes in your child following a blow to the head, take them to the doctor immediately. If necessary, go to the emergency department for immediate attention following a traumatic injury to the head.