It’s Summer so you need to know how to spot and treat a child’s head injury

As schools take their summer break and children head to their scooters, bikes, skateboards and rollerblades the risk of getting a head injury rises. It is estimated by the Child Brain Injury Trust (www.childbraininjurytrust.org.uk) that the number of serious head injuries during the summer holidays amongst children increases by over 30%.

This rise is head injuries and other accidents is no great surprise since there are so many children playing during the summer holidays says the chief executive officer of the Child Brain Injury Trust Lisa Turan.

But the surprising thing is how many children are out playing for the summer without having any protective head gear. Youngsters are not the ones to think about a brain injury risk when they are busy jumping bikes or flying through the air at a skate park. But if they were to witness how the lives have been changed by some of the children we support that have had a brain injury, they might think again.

Play It Safe

One of the best ways to avoid a brain injury is to guard against the most common causes. Wearing a protective helmet could absorb up to 63% (Thomas S, Acton CH, Nixon J, Battistutta D, Pitt WR, Clark R. BMJ, 1994) of the impact. That could make all the difference between a mild or serious brain injury, or between life and death.

“At the moment it isn’t law for children to wear a helmet while cycling and skateboarding so it’s hard for parents and carers to insist on children wearing a helmet,” says Sally Dunscombe, director of the Brain Injury Group (www.braininjurygroup.co.uk). “We would like to see the law changed but, until it is, we would strongly urge parents to reinforce these dos and don’ts for safer summer fun,” she says.

• DO wear a protective helmet when cycling, rollerblading, skate boarding or using a scooter
• DON’T dive headfirst into lakes, ponds or pools
• DO up your helmet properly BEFORE you move off, get onto a horse or start to zip wire
• DO tell an adult if you hit your head
• DON’T leave your friends if they hit their head (and DO tell their parents what happened as they may not recall it).

How to spot a brain injury

“A brain injury can be sustained even if your child doesn’t lose consciousness,” warns neurologist and consultant to the Brain Injury Group Professor Lindsay McLellan. “In some cases, a child can continue acting normally for hours before they show any symptoms,” he says. “If a child is knocked out it’s pretty obvious they should go to hospital,” he continues. “But if they bump their head in a playground or while mucking about in the garden and don’t lose consciousness but continue to feel unwell, it can be tricky to know whether they have a more serious injury,” says McLellan. “If they continue to experience one or more of these symptoms, seek medical advice,” he advises.

• Headache
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness or disorientation
• Trouble speaking clearly
• Irritability and/or tearfulness
• Blurred vision/dislike of bright light
• Extreme tiredness

“If one of more of these symptoms is severe, go straight to hospital,” advises Professor McLellan. “But if the symptoms are milder or come on more gradually you should see your GP.”

If you have been affected by brain injury, the braininjurygroup.co.uk provides comprehensive support services for brain injured individuals and their families.

The Child Brain Injury Trust is a national charity that provides support for families following childhood acquired brain injury.
Find out more at childbraininjurytrust.org.uk or call the helpline 0845 601 4939 (helpline@cbituk.org).