How Do I Know if My Baby Has a Concussion?

You’ve put safety gates leading to every room and staircase. You’ve installed cabinet locks. You’ve anchored all the heavy furniture to the wall. You never leave your baby unattended. But still, one day, the unthinkable happens – your baby or toddler hits their head on something or, even worse, takes a tumble off of your lap.

DOES MY BABY HAVE A CONCUSSION?

It can be a terrifying thing as a new parent to see your baby or toddler take a fall in the home that you’ve so carefully protected. You may be frightened that they’ve suffered a serious blow that might cause some permanent damage. But how do you know if your baby has a concussion? Symptoms of a more serious injury, like a concussion, can be more difficult to notice in babies and toddlers because they communicate differently than older children and adults. You’ll need to keep a closer eye on babies and toddlers to notice the subtle signs of concussion symptoms they may be showing:

• Continual rubbing of the head (could be a sign of headache)
• Unsteady walking, poor balance and coordination
• Suddenly unable to perform newly learned skills (i.e. talking, self-feeding, potty training)
• Cranky/irritable or hard to console
• Listlessness
• Change in eating/sleeping patterns
• No longer showing interest in their favourite toys
• Nausea and vomiting
• Sensitivity to light and noise

It certainly goes without saying, but if you notice any of the following “red flag” symptoms, take your child to the Emergency Department for immediate medical help:

• Large bumps/bruises/swelling
• Continual vomiting
• Blood/fluid in the ear
• Seizures
• Pupils unequal in size
• Increased sleepiness or child cannot be woken up

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR BABY HAS A CONCUSSION

If you suspect that your toddler or baby has a concussion call your family doctor or go to your local Emergency Department right away. It is better to be safe than sorry; even if you’re not 100% sure, take your baby/toddler in to get checked. Don’t forget to follow up with your family doctor to have your child’s symptoms monitored over time. Also, avoid any stimulating/active play for at least the first 24-48 hours (e.g. no running, no rough play, no bouncing, no loud toys) as you continue to monitor for symptoms. Remember: extra supervision of your child after a concussion is extremely important!

BE PREPARED!

CanChild has a great brochure that you can print up and keep on hand that lists all of these subtle and red flag symptoms as well as prevention tips to keep your child safe!

Melissa Kiley is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with a special interest in concussion/acquired brain injury as well as literacy skills development. She has been working with clients for over 10 years and is highly skilled in developing functional and innovative treatments.