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Even though many falls are harmless accidents, it's a good idea to know what signs to look for to determine if medical attention is required. In this video, Dr. Rosenberg describes the signs of concussions and fractures, and she offers tips to help your little one feel better after a tumble.
Dr. Dawn Rosenberg, M.D., FAAP, is a board-certified general pediatrician in San Francisco. She is very committed to teaching and is actively involved in medical student and resident education as an associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco.
It's not unusual for your baby to take a tumble in her first year of life. Even with vigilant supervision, she may fall off a changing table, bed, or couch. These accidents happen in the blink of an eye. The good news is that most of these falls are minor and usually nothing to worry about.
If your baby has a fall and hits her head, you may notice a bump on the head. This lump, or goose egg, is a collection of blood and fluid that leaks out from the blood vessels due to the force of injury. When the scalp or forehead swells, it protrudes outward because the bony skull is just below the skin. Although it looks scary, it may not be anything serious.
You'll need to get emergency help if your baby has lost consciousness or has a seizure. Also call 911 if she has persistent bleeding that you can't control or if she's unresponsive.
Contact your doctor or bring your child in right away if you think she may have broken a bone or fractured her skull. The two main signs of a fractured skull are a large, spongy swelling, often on the side or back of the head, and pink fluid or blood draining from the nose or ears.
You should also take your child to the doctor immediately if she has a concussion. Signs of a concussion include persistent vomiting or altered behavior, excessive sleepiness or irritability, prolonged crying, weakness, or problems moving or communicating.
If your baby does not have any of these worrisome symptoms, do your best to make her more comfortable at home. Try to put some ice on the bump to decrease the swelling. You can wrap an ice pack or even a bag of peas in a cloth or a diaper and ice the bump for a few minutes at a time. Distracting her with nursing, reading, or soothing may help relieve her discomfort. It's also fine to give your baby a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. But remember, ibuprofen can only be used if your baby is over 6 months old.
You don't need to keep your baby awake after a fall, but do continue to closely monitor her for the next 24 hours to make sure she seems like she's back to herself.
It's impossible to prevent your baby from getting bumps and bruises as she grows up and explores the world, but careful supervision and thorough childproofing will go a long way towards preventing serious and avoidable injuries.
Video production by Paige Bierma.