Children play hard, and can sustain a traumatic brain injury from participating in sports and actually colliding with someone or even having their head jerked in a violent fashion. There are a variety of other ways a child could suffer a TBI, including a car accident.
However, noticing a difference in behavior, especially for a younger child, might not be as obvious as for an adult that has suffered a TBI. Here are six signs and symptoms of a brain injury that you may notice in a child right away, or weeks after the injury has occurred…
1. Dizziness or Vomiting
Vomiting can be fairly common in young children, but if it occurs often following a head injury, then you should take more notice. Your young child may throw up without warning (they might not communicate that they feel sick) according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, making it more difficult to deal with the situation depending on where you are.
Your child may also become a bit unsteady on their feet due to dizziness, which is another physical sign you can observe. These symptoms may also be accompanied by a headache, which they may or may not inform you about.
2. Mood Changes
If your toddler’s sunny demeanor suddenly has a storm cloud, then there could be a hint that their brain has sustained an injury. The Mayo Clinic says your little one may not seem as engaged in activities or playing with toys, which is essentially the younger version of depression.
They may become quieter and mope around in a sad way. On the flipside, your happy child may cry persistently and you might not be able to console them they way you did in the past, adds the source. Other sources say a child with a TBI might become more irritable and short-tempered.
3. Lack of Focus
If your child is having a hard time focusing on a book you’re reading to them, or they’re school-aged and their teachers say they aren’t paying attention like they used to, it could be related to a TBI (or it could be a concurrent problem like ADHD).
The Brain Injury Association of America notes impaired concentration, limited attention span, and short-term memory deficits are all symptoms of a brain injury in children. On a side note, the association says there are 37,000-hospitalizations a year related to TBI in children aged 0 to 14.
4. Loss of Consciousness
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association explains there are various levels of pediatric TBI, and that a “mild” case may result in a child losing consciousness for less than 30-minutes. Doctors often refer to a mild TBI as a concussion.
Meanwhile, a moderate TBI in children can result in loss of consciousness for up to 24-hours, and a severe brain injury can essentially lead to a coma (more than 24-hours of unconsciousness) with posttraumatic amnesia (losing memory of events following the injury) lasting for more than 7-days, adds the site.
5. Inappropriate Behavior
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne in Australia explains that a brain injury may life any social filters your child has developed. “After a brain injury, a child or adolescent may have less ability to control their own behavior and may say things or behave in a way that is inappropriate, unsuitable or unacceptable,” notes the site, adding the child may not realize they’re acting this way.
Following a blow to the head or another injury that can cause a TBI, you might notice your child swearing (although some kids go through this experimental phase). They may also become “overly friendly and affectionate to strangers” and display heightened sexual behavior, it adds.
6. Changes in Eating and Sleeping Patterns
The Mayo Clinic says your child may suddenly change their eating or nursing habits, or have their sleep disrupted. While the source doesn’t elaborate too much on these points, there could be some explanations for this.
For example, we already mentioned that TBI could make your child feel sick, which will most likely affect their appetite. Also, if the child is not eating properly and goes to sleep, they may wake from hunger at unusual times. You might want to consult a doctor if your child’s eating/sleeping patterns have suddenly changed, even if you’re not aware of an injury.