Prevention of TBI (in Young Children) for Parents

Even babies can have traumatic brain injuries. Such injuries can range from a concussion, which is a mild brain injury, to a severe and devastating injury. A brain injury may, at first, seem mild but the family should watch for signs and symptoms that it is evolving into something more severe.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury is any injury to the head that potentially affects the function of the brain. Traumatic brain injuries are usually the result of a blow to the head, a fall, or shaking. Brain injury can also be secondary to a blow to any part of the body that causes the brain in the head to move back and forth.

The following are general guidelines to provide to parents. Additional information can be found through the links under Resources below.

How to Reduce the Chance of a Brain Injury

  • Never leave your child alone in a highchair or let him/her climb on high furniture
  • Block openings on railings that have openings wider than 4 inches with safety netting
  • Use a safety belt in shopping carts
  • Keep your child in rear facing car seat as long as possible; move to a front-facing car seat no earlier than 12 months of age and weighing 20 pounds
  • Install car seats properly
  • When driving, lock the doors and windows
  • Children should wear a helmet while riding tricycles, playing on playgrounds etc.
Falls from Windows
Of particular concern are fall from windows for young children. During a 19-year period, an estimated 98,145 children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries sustained in falls from windows. These kinds of falls occur more frequently during spring and summer months. The rate of injury is higher for children younger than 5 years of age, and those children were more likely to sustain serious injuries. To reduce and prevent windows falls:
  • Use window guards and safety netting on window, decks, and landings
  • Move furniture that children could climb on away from windows
  • Install window locks so windows don’t open far enough for a child to climb or fall out

If your child has had a blow to the head, follow the ABCs:

A- Assess the situation – even if the blow to the head or a fall seems harmless at the time, continue to assess your child and call your healthcare provider or emergency medical services (depending on severity) if symptoms appear. The first 24 hours after a brain injury are usually the most critical.
B- Be alert for signs and symptoms - A child with a concussion may lose consciousness, be drowsy, confused or irritable, or have problems with his vision, memory, or balance. This sounds scary, but in most cases the effects are minor and temporary and your child will recover completely. Signs and symptoms that might signal a more serious brain injury include:
  • loss of consciousness
  • drainage, clear or bloody, from his nose, mouth, or ears
  • will not stop crying
  • will not nurse or eat
  • starts breathing irregularly
  • has seizures or fixed stares
  • has pupils that are different sizes
  • vomits repeatedly
  • has sharply increased confusion, agitation, restlessness
  • has severe headaches that get worse
  • has weakness or numbness in arms or legs
  • slurs their speech
C- Contact your physician or emergency medical services if these symptoms are present.

Resources

Information & Support

For Professionals

Traumatic Brain Injury (CDC)
Educational initiatives and campaigns for clinicians, parents, educators, coaches, and individuals including children with TBI. Free, downloadable materials and fact sheets; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For Parents and Patients

Support

Preventing Head Injuries in Children (MedlinePlus)
General guidelines from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.

Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries (CDC)
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comprehensive page on TBI and prevention

Helpful Articles

Harris VA, Rochette LM, Smith GA.
Pediatric Injuries Attributable to Falls From Windows in the United States in 1990-2008.
Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):455 -462. PubMed abstract / Full Text
During a 19-year period, an estimated 98,145 children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries sustained in falls from windows.

Authors

Author: Sue Olsen, MEd - 8/2011
Content Last Updated: 6/2013