How Traumatic Brain Injuries Affect Children

Traumatic brain injury – often called TBI – is brain damage that can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head, as well as by an object penetrating the skull. Oftentimes, TBIs are not life threatening and those who suffer from mild injuries experience temporary brain-cell dysfunction – which results in symptoms such as headaches, sleep-pattern changes, mood alterations and loss of consciousness that lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes.

In other cases, TBIs can be quite severe, causing serious damage or even death to the victims.
The Causes and Effects of Severe TBIs

Traumatic brain injuries commonly occur while playing sports or from falls, car accidents and violent acts. When patients sustain severe TBI, they can suffer from:

Slurred speech
Loss of bowel or bladder control
Seizures
Loss of coordination
Nausea

Children and Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries

Although children are known for their ability to bounce back from injuries, research recently published in Pediatrics indicates that recovering from TBI is not easy even for kids. Children who suffer from these injuries often feel the effects for years.

In one study, researchers looked at 40 children from ages two to seven, who suffered from TBIs. The researchers examined these patients 12 months, 30 months and 10 years after their injuries and found that those with severe TBIs had the worst cognitive functioning – although, with interventions and therapies, these children were able to develop in an age-appropriate way.

In another study, researchers looked at 53 children who suffered from TBI before they were three years old. When the patients were examined again between the ages of four and six, the researchers found that those with more severe brain injuries scored about seven to ten points lower on IQ tests.

Although researchers cannot say for sure what factors affect recovery from severe TBI, the studies indicate that a child’s environment may play a role.

“Children from cohesive family environments and children whose parents had lower levels of stress showed better recovery,” researcher Louise Crowe said in a statement. “Why this is so is unclear, but it may be due to a parent spending more time with their children, and children also growing up in a less stressful environment.”
Does Your Child Have TBI?

Young children may not be able to tell you if they are having symptoms of traumatic brain injury, so if you observe the following symptoms after your child has an accident, consult a physician:

Persistent crying
Loss of interest in favorite activities
Change in sleep patterns or eating habits
Irritability

If your child has suffered a direct blow to the head, it’s best to consult a physician even if you don’t observe any of the TBI warning signs.

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