Handling Head Injuries for Children 3 Years Old and Younger

Head injuries are some of the most common injuries for small and young children. It is often difficult to gauge whether or not an injury is serious, our first aid training in Glasgow at Harberry helps to prepare you for such an important and critical assessment. However, that being said, any knock to the head should be considered a head injury and guardians should seek out professional medical care immediately. 

What Causes Head Injuries

Head injuries are more common in young children due to inability to control the movement of their heads in comparison to adults. Their heads are larger in proportion to their body and the neck muscles are still in the middle of developing. 

The centre of gravity of a child’s body is closer to their head as they have shorter legs in comparison to the size of their body. Their motor skills are being developed too resulting in higher chances of falling and hurting themselves. 

Types of Head Injuries

Head injuries can range from mild to serious injuries. Serious head injuries include inflicted injuries such as Shaken Baby Syndrome, where there is deliberate harm to the child. 

There is are multiple parts of the head that can be affected from an injury:

  • External – involving the scalp
  • Internal – affecting the skull, the blood vessels or the brain


Injuries to these areas can cause the following:

  • Concussions
  • Skull Fractures
  • Contusions



A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is a direct result of a blow directly aimed at the head or other injuries where the head is moved with blunt force. There may be external injuries to the head such as cuts or bruising but the real damage can be internally. 

Symptoms of concussions can range from mild to severe depending on the seriousness of the injury. Symptoms include but are not limited to: 

  • Becoming unconscious
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • A series of migraines or headaches
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Changes in personality

Skull Fracture

A skull fracture is a break in the skull. There are 4 types of skull fractures:

  • Linear Skull Fracture – break in the bone but the bone remains in its original position.
  • Depressed Skull Fracture – part of the skull has sunken in due to trauma.
  • Diastatic Skull Fracture – fractures along the suture lines on the skull. These are the areas where the bones in the head fuse as a child grows. These types of fractures are more common within newborns and infants.
  • Basilar Skull Fracture – break in the base of the skull.



Contusion is bruising to the brain. Contusions can cause bleeding and swelling in the brain where the blunt trauma occurred. Contusions are more often seen on the scalp or forehead. Blood from the blood vessels will result in red or purple bruising visible on the skin. 


Signs & Symptoms of a Head Injury

Small children with a head injury may have the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Swollen scalp
  • Recurring headaches
  • Vomiting 

Head injuries can also be a result from other types of injuries and thus it is a parent’s responsibility to look out for other symptoms away from the head such as trouble breathing, spinal injuries and severe bleeding. 


How to Diagnose Head Injuries

Injuries will be diagnosed through CAT scans, blood tests, X-rays, MRIs and EEGs. However, these are diagnoses that can only be performed by medical personnel and thus it is important for parents to prioritise seeking medical help for a suspected head injury.  

Only your healthcare provider can give the best course of action based on your child’s medical history, their age, if they need particular medication or therapy. 


How Should a Parent Aid a Child with a Head Injury

At home, small children with mild head injuries should be given plenty of rest and sleep, particularly in the first 24-48 hours since the accident occured. If your child has a headache following an injury, it is best to give them paracetamol every 4-6 hours to relieve the pain.

If you find it difficult to wake your child or they fall unconscious, call an ambulance immediately, as they will need to be observed immediately by a medical professional. 


Head Injury Prevention

In order to prevent future head blows to your children, consider babyproofing your home to minimise household accidents. As babies grow from one life stage to another, their set of abilities and skills will also further develop and this is what may lead to accidents.

Always play gently with your child; shaking or slapping a child will result in injury to the brain. As a guardian, it is your responsibility to notify medical services. Young children must be supervised at all times to prevent injury. 

Examples of preventative measures are as follows:

  • Using a baby gate to block stairways; install one at the top of the stairs and at the bottom of the stairs. 
  • Block corners of furniture like table tops and dressers. If small children are running around, they may hit their heads on sharp corners of furniture.
  • Keep your children away from elevated surfaces unsupervised. 
  • Supervise your children when they play outside as they may fall and hurt themselves.
  • Use appropriate and approved car seats when travelling in vehicles.
  • Wear helmets riding bikes or tricycles.
  • If recovering from a previous injury, wait for the doctor’s green light before having your child play sports to minimise further damage.

Come and see us in person:

first aid for head injuries