Bumps and bruises can occur at any time and any place—and sometimes, as in the case of North Carolina mom Sandy Bravo-Boyd, they can happen as soon as you step out the door. Bravo-Boyd stays busy with energetic 20-month-old son Jack. One day, the twosome got 10 steps out their front door when Jack fell, scraping the left side of his nose and face. "I was shocked that it happened so quickly," says Sandy, who ran back into the house with a crying and slightly bleeding toddler. "I grabbed some cotton balls and a clean washcloth to gently clean his face and apply pressure," she says. "I remembered to put on first aid cream and left the wound exposed so it could dry."
Sandy called Jack's pediatrician who told her to continue reapplying Neosporin to the affected area. Sandy also learned the injury might look worse before it got better.
Symptoms: What at first appears to be swelling and puffiness, or even just a scrape, can sometimes be more. Symptoms of a head injury can include swelling, bruising, pain in the affected area, and bleeding if the skin split where the injury occurred.
"If the skin is split, the child may require stitches to close the skin and therefore needs a medical evaluation," says Dr. Csukas. Surface cuts and bumps may be the least of it—any trauma to the head could result in a concussion, so parents should be cautious. "Parents can check their child's pupils to make sure they are equal in size and get bigger and smaller in reaction to a bright light. If this is not the case, a more serious problem may be involved and medical evaluation is needed."
Treatment: Dr. Csukas suggests watching your child if she bumped her head and to involve her in quiet and calm activities for the rest of the day. "Limit a child's intake to sips of clear liquid and bland foods for the rest of the day as well," adds Dr. Csukas. "Vomiting may occur once or twice, but if the child has multiple episodes of vomiting, call your doctor immediately."
Dr. Csukas says not to give children medicine that may make them sleepy. "You'll want to be able to observe your child for any unusual change in behavior or activity," he explains.
Prevention: Closely monitor your child in any situation where he or she may experience a fall that could cause head injury. Be sure kids wear helmets while riding tricycles, bikes, scooters, and so on. Childproofing the home is a good way to prevent run-ins with sharp corners, and gates protect children from staircases.