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Injury Prevention and Safety

When a toddler hits their head

08/10/2007

Question:

Is it still the rule of thumb that if a child hits their head that you should not let them sleep for an hour?

Answer:

Toddlers bump their heads a lot as they practice running, climbing, and exploring their world at top speed. Most of the time, they will simply have a lump on their head somewhere and be perfectly fine. Ice is always a good idea, 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off, for several hours will help limit the lump size and provide some numbing relief.

Whether or not you need to wake the child from sleep at regular intervals depends on how hard the child hit his or her head. If there is any:

the child should be seen by a pediatric doctor or nurse practitioner. Other signs of serious injury include the drainage of blood or yellowish fluid from the ears and nose. If there is no indication for hospitalization, he or she may well advise you to  regularly rouse the child from sleep to make sure the child is truly asleep and not unconscious.

Research shows that many parents and even health professionals under rate the degree of head injury that has occurred. It's always better to be safe than sorry. So, if you think the child's head injury was bad enough to warrant waking him or her every hour or two, then it is bad enough to have the doctor check the child out. I hope this is helpful information.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University