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How can I recognize traumatic brain injury in my child?

There are a variety of accident types that can lead to a traumatic brain injury in a child in Rhode Island. The Brain Injury Alliance reports that just over half a million children under the age of 19 are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year. While the causes of each injury vary, another 62,000 children are so severely injured from a TBI that they require hospitalization and additional treatment. Over 2,600 fatalities of those under the age of 14 are reported each year. If you are a parent or involved in teaching or coaching children, you need to be aware of the signs that signal a brain injury so that help can be sought immediately.


Very young children are likely to suffer a TBI in the form of a concussion. A toddler’s height makes him or her more likely to bump into counters and the decreased balance makes falling down stairs more common. Immediate signs that a child has sustained a concussion can include inconsolable crying, irritability, vomiting, restlessness or headache. Long-term symptoms include poor attention, persistent headache and a change in sleep patterns. Asking a child where it hurts does not always work since amnesia or nausea can interfere with pain location.


Older children can have a wider range of symptoms, including cognitive and physical impairments. Some of the common signs are:


  •          Fatigue
  •          Hearing or speech impairments
  •          Vision problems
  •          Poor balance or motor coordination
  •          Seizures
  •          Paralysis


Cognitive issues can include the inability to focus or concentrate, short-term memory loss, irrational judgment, poor perception or slowness of thinking.


There are also emotional signs you should watch for if you suspect a child may have a TBI. These include depression, anxiety and decreased self-esteem. Mood swings are also common, as is a lack of motivation, denial, restlessness and the inability to control emotions.


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