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  • Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Kids May Be Hiding in Plain Sight at Home

    Young children are among the age groups most vulnerable to traumatic brain injuries.
    by Kate Borbon .
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Kids May Be Hiding in Plain Sight at Home
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Children will play to their hearts’ delight to the point that it feels like they have taken over the house. So you try to keep their play spaces at home as safe as possible — padding walls and sharp surfaces, putting any breakable out of reach, installing baby gates everywhere. The findings of a recently published study, however, show that we might also want to look closely into certain parts of the house and everyday household objects when it comes to child safety.

    The study, which was published in the journal Brain Injury, looked at national estimates of around 4.1 million non-fatal traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in kids and teens across the United States between 2010 and 2013. As CNN reports, the researchers concluded that about 72% of brain injury-related emergency department visits among American children are linked to products typically found in the home.

    According to The Bump, the top 10 products found to contribute to non-fatal TBIs in kids between less than a year and 19 years old are:

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    • Floors
    • Beds
    • Football
    • Stairs
    • Bicycles
    • Basketball
    • Ceilings and walls
    • Chairs
    • Soccer
    • Tables

    The product groups most commonly related to brain injuries are sports and recreation (28.8% of injuries), home furnishings and fixtures (17.2% of injuries), home structures and construction materials (17.1% of injuries), child nursery equipment (2.7% of injuries), and toys (2.4% of injuries).

    “Uneven flooring and prefabricated stairs often contribute to falls,” Bina Ali, a research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland, U.S., and the first author of the study, told CNN. “Slipping, tripping, and falling are very common. Some falls can cause serious head injuries.”

    Furthermore, the researchers concluded that TBIs resulting from injuries related to home furnishing, particularly beds, were highest among infants and children up to 4 years old. TBIs obtained from sports and recreation, such as activities like basketball and riding bicycles, were highest in children between the ages 5 and 19 years.

    What else? Car seats were found to be the fifth leading cause of traumatic head injuries in infants. “Car seats are effective in preventing injuries in infants when used properly in cars. However, sometimes car seats are used outside of the car as baby carriers. When they are handled inappropriately, they can pose a risk,” Ali told CNN.

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    Causes and symptoms of brain injuries

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a traumatic brain injury, otherwise known as concussion, disrupts normal brain function and usually temporary. Concussions are typically caused by a blow or jolt to the head, but it can also be a hit to the body.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries fall into four categories.

    Thinking/Remembering

    • Difficulty in thinking clearly
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Trouble remembering new information
    • Feeling slowed down

    Physical

    • Headache
    • Blurry vision
    • Vomiting or nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Sensitivity to light or noise
    • Difficulty balancing oneself
    • Feeling tired

    Emotional/Mood 

    • Sadness
    • Irritability
    • Being more sensitive than usual
    • Anxiety or nervousness

    Sleep

    • Sleeping more or less than usual
    • Having trouble falling asleep

    Other symptoms to take note of, according to the AAP, are being confused or forgetful about recent events and being slow to answer questions. Danger signs in children include a headache that keeps worsening and won’t go away, slurred speech, seizures or convulsions, loss of consciousness, refusing to stop crying, and refusing to nurse or eat.

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    The CDC notes that while some of these symptoms might be evident right after a child gets injured, other symptoms might not be noticeable until days or even months after the injury.

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    Treatment and prevention of brain injuries

    Last year, the CDC released a new set of guidelines and recommendations on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of children and adolescents with traumatic brain injuries. These recommendations include:

    • Asking healthcare providers to avoid conducting routine imaging tests on children with traumatic brain injuries
    • Using validated and age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose TBIs
    • Assessing risk factors that may signal prolonged recovery
    • Providing patients with instructions about returning to their daily activities, according to their symptoms
    • Counseling patients to eventually return to non-sports activities after 2 to 3 days of rest

    Heed the doctor’s advice if your child was diagnosed with a brain injury. The AAP advises reducing physical and mental activity for these children. This involves constantly monitoring them, having them temporarily stay home from school, having them excused from gym classes or recess activities, encouraging them to practice light physical exertion to aid in their recovery, and initiating physical therapy if necessary. If the child’s symptoms worsen or her behavior changes, parents should immediately seek their doctor’s assistance.

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    To prevent your child from suffering any injury to the head, make sure to have her wear protective gear, especially when she is engaging in riding activities like riding bikes or skateboarding and contact sports like football. Protective equipment include helmets and knee pads — just make sure her helmet and other gear fit her properly, are securely fastened, and are in good condition. Remember that a head injury must never be ignored, no matter how minor you may think it is.

    If your child is involved in sports and suffers a traumatic brain injury, she might require longer recovery time. The AAP says that, for athletes, “all formal sports activity should be suspended until symptoms have completely resolved at rest.” She may return to playing sports step-by-step once she has received clearance from her doctor. Pay attention to her symptoms and see if they worsen as she continues her sports activities.

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    “Any concussion-related symptoms that return with exertion are a clear indication that the concussion has not healed,” the AAP writes. “Final clearance to return to full activity should also be at the direction of a physician.”

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