Most parents in Florida have the underlying fear that their child will sustain a serious injury, and a traumatic brain injury may be the scariest type. TBIs can happen anywhere, during any activity, but one of the most common causes, as Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, is car accidents

Because a TBI can affect every aspect of a child’s life, it is critical to identify symptoms as quickly as possible.

Invisible injuries

In a car accident, even a child wearing proper safety restraints may suffer a head trauma from loose objects such as groceries being flung about in the vehicle, or from pieces of the vehicle flying through the air. Identifying injuries from an external blow may be easy, but a child does not have to be hit in the head to sustain a brain injury. In fact, whiplash may be the cause of the trauma.

The force that moves the head back and forth causes the brain to strike the inside of the skull. The bruises that occur other than at the site of an impact are known as countrecoup lesions. These often involve torn tissues, internal lining and blood vessels, and the resulting swelling and internal bleeding can create dangerous pressure that damages other areas in the brain. Because the pressure can build slowly, a child may not suffer brain damage until days after the initial injury.

Signs of trauma

It is a good idea to take a child to the doctor for an examination after a car accident. The doctor may look for external signs of trauma, such as bumps, bruises or cuts, as well as checking reflexes and looking for other signs. If there is evidence of a TBI, a doctor may order images of the brain, such as x-rays, an MRI or a CT scan, to look for abnormalities.

Whether or not a doctor examines a child after an accident, parents should watch for symptoms such as headache, confusion, irritability or mood swings, balance or coordination issues, changes in sleep patterns and fatigue. A child with a TBI may complain of ears ringing, blurry vision or light or noise sensitivity, as well. Any of these issues may be good cause for a follow-up visit to the doctor.

According to KidsHealth, children who have suffered a TBI are in danger of a second, more serious TBI during the weeks immediately following the first injury while the brain is healing. Therefore, parents may want to keep the child out of sports or other vigorous activities until this risk has passed.