Head injuries occur commonly in adolescence and childhood. Although many head injuries are mild and are not associated with long-term complications or brain injury, TBI has been noted as the leading cause of death and disability among children and adolescents in the United States. Research indicates an estimated 50,000 – 60,000 U.S. children are hospitalized for TBI, at a rate of 70 – 75 cases per 100,000 children. Traumatic brain injury as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” TBI can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning. TBIs are classified as mild TBIs or moderate to severe TBIs in nature. The functional impact of a TBI in children can be different than in adults, because the pediatric brain is still developing. TBI in children is considered a chronic disease process, as opposed to a one-time event, since its symptoms may change and unfold over time.
Signs and Symptoms
The specific symptoms that a child may develop because of a TBI will depend on a variety of contributing factors, such as the type of injury, the age of the child, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. It is important to note that young children and infants with brain injuries may be unable to communicate certain symptoms (e.g., sensory difficulty, headaches, confusion, etc.). The Mayo Clinic provides examples of signs and symptoms a child with a TBI may exhibit, which may include but are not limited to, the following:
- Change in eating or nursing habits
- Unusual or easy irritability
- Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
- Change in ability to pay attention
- Change in sleep habits
- Sad or depressed mood
- Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities
The nature of the symptoms will vary from child to child. Additionally, some TBI symptoms may appear immediately and dissipate rather quickly, while others could present several days or weeks later, and some experienced symptoms may evolve over time.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
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