When our children get hurt, we want to do everything in our power to help them recover, and while every injury is different, most parents have a general sense of how to care for certain injuries, like a broken arm or a sprained ankle. The same can’t always be said for how to handle pediatric head injuries. Every child’s brain develops at their own pace and can be affected differently based on the severity of their head injury. So while there’s no perfect playbook for handling pediatric TBIs, we do want to provide some general tips for caring for your child if they suffer a head injury.
The Pediatric TBI Playbook
Again, this shouldn’t be viewed as a perfect care guide for every type of head injury, but it can provide some helpful avenues to pursue in your quest to help your child’s head heal.
1. Visit a Doctor – One of the best things you can do for your child after they suffer a head injury is to have them examined by a specialist. Kids may not be the best at articulating their symptoms, but a neurospecialist can help to diagnose potential issues and set you up with a personalized care plan going forward. When it comes to head injuries, there’s no such thing as a “minor” injury, so have them examined by a specialist to determine what’s really going on.
2. The Rest/Activity Balance – Follow the instructions of your doctor in regards to rest and activity, but in general, many head injuries and concussions respond well to short term rest followed by mild, safe activity. What we mean by this is that your child isn’t going to have the best recovery if they lay in bed for two weeks, and at the same time they shouldn’t be back out on the soccer field the day after visiting the doctor. Rest is usually preferred for the first 48-72 hours, then gradual activity increases in the form of walking or controlled exercise can actually be more beneficial in the recovery process. Monitor your children during these activities and pull back if symptoms are present or develop.
3. Wait For Clearance – Make sure you get medical clearance from a doctor before allowing your kids to return to sports or school. Sports and school can stress the brain and expose it to further injury, which can delay healing. Kids sometimes lie about their symptoms because they don’t want to miss practices, games or school, but trust the baseline tests your doctor performs and abide by their clearances before moving forward with certain activities.
4. Practice Prevention Techniques – This is obviously easier said than done, but the best way to care for a head injury is to prevent one in the first place. You may not have been able to prevent the first one, but do everything in your power to prevent the next one. Ensure your kids are wearing helmets when biking, skateboarding or skiing, and make sure they are always properly buckled when in the car. Every TBI is not preventable, but we can reduce head injuries and concussions by protecting our child’s head during activities that could lead to trauma.
For more tips, or to talk to Dr. Chang about your child’s head injury, reach out to his office today at (651) 430-3800.