“A rise in head injuries and accidents is hardly surprising with many more children out and about during the summer holidays,” admits Lisa Turan, chief executive officer of the Child Brain Injury Trust (www.childbraininjurytrust.org.uk). But what IS surprising is the amount of children who set out for summer fun without wearing any protective head gear. Youngsters don’t think about the risk of brain injury when they jump on their bikes or head to the skate park. But if they saw some of the children we support whose lives have changed in a split second through acquiring a brain injury, they would definitely think again,” she says.
Play It Safe
One of the best ways to avoid a brain injury is to guard against the most common causes. Wearing a protective helmet could absorb up to 63% (Thomas S, Acton CH, Nixon J, Battistutta D, Pitt WR, Clark R. BMJ, 1994) of the impact. That could make all the difference between a mild or serious brain injury, or between life and death.
“At the moment it isn’t law for children to wear a helmet while cycling and skateboarding so it’s hard for parents and carers to insist on children wearing a helmet,” says Sally Dunscombe, director of the Brain Injury Group (www.braininjurygroup.co.uk). “We would like to see the law changed but, until it is, we would strongly urge parents to reinforce these dos and don’ts for safer summer fun,” she says.
• DO wear a protective helmet when cycling, rollerblading, skate boarding or using a scooter
• DON’T dive headfirst into lakes, ponds or pools
• DO up your helmet properly BEFORE you move off, get onto a horse or start to zip wire
• DO tell an adult if you hit your head
• DON’T leave your friends if they hit their head (and DO tell their parents what happened as they may not recall it).
How to spot a brain injury
“A brain injury can be sustained even if your child doesn’t lose consciousness,” warns neurologist and consultant to the Brain Injury Group Professor Lindsay McLellan. “In some cases, a child can continue acting normally for hours before they show any symptoms,” he says. “If a child is knocked out it’s pretty obvious they should go to hospital,” he continues. “But if they bump their head in a playground or while mucking about in the garden and don’t lose consciousness but continue to feel unwell, it can be tricky to know whether they have a more serious injury,” says McLellan. “If they continue to experience one or more of these symptoms, seek medical advice,” he advises.
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness or disorientation
• Trouble speaking clearly
• Irritability and/or tearfulness
• Blurred vision/dislike of bright light
• Extreme tiredness
“If one of more of these symptoms is severe, go straight to hospital,” advises Professor McLellan. “But if the symptoms are milder or come on more gradually you should see your GP.”
If you have been affected by brain injury, the www.braininjurygroup.co.uk provides comprehensive support services for brain injured individuals and their families.
The Child Brain Injury Trust is a national charity that provides support for families following childhood acquired brain injury.
Find out more at www.childbraininjurytrust.org.uk or call the helpline 0845 601 4939 (firstname.lastname@example.org).