Should You Let Your Child Sleep if You Suspect a Head Injury?

July 22, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Lawrence B. Daniels, M.D. contributes to topics such as Neurology.

Head injuries can be frightening, especially in children, so it’s important to know what to do if and when they happen. Even if you think it’s just a bump on the head, pay attention to your child’s cues.

What to Do After a Head Injury

If your child is an infant, loses consciousness or is inconsolable after a head injury, call your doctor right away or call 9-1-1.

If your child is older and did not lose consciousness, put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes every few hours, then watch for signs of a concussion, which include:

  •   Headache
  •   Nausea
  •   Dizziness
  •   Balance problems
  •   Memory difficulty
  •   Sensitivity to noise and light
  •   Personality changes

If It Might Be a Concussion

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

While a concussion is not usually life-threatening, the effects of a concussion can be serious. So if you suspect your child has a concussion, it’s important to call your doctor right away.

“We always seek to evaluate neurological symptoms in children as early as possible,” says Lawrence Daniels, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Once your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, it is important to let him or her sleep, as rest encourages healing of the brain. Sleeping, in fact, encourages healing of the brain.

It’s important for parents and medical professionals to document every instance of a head injury because there can be a cumulative effect. Repeated concussions are linked to a degenerative disease of the brain known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that has gained recognition because of the many professional football players it has affected.

If It’s Not a Concussion

If you don’t suspect a concussion and your child’s skin color and breathing are normal, let your child rest. Check on them from time to time, but there is no medical need to keep a child awake after a head injury.

Overall, trust your instincts. If your child doesn’t seem quite right, call your doctor. A head injury should be taken seriously, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

“The sooner we know, the sooner we can treat it, and the sooner you and your child will feel better,” Dr. Daniels says.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.