Banged Up Toddlers

Additional Information:

As a baby becomes a toddler year and grows increasingly mobile, an upswing in injuries is follows right behind. As children begin walking, they injure themselves left and right. Many parents become concerned about the serious bumps and bruises that their child is sustaining. You may wonder: “he's taken some major spills lately. Should I be worried that he's getting hurt so often?”

Your child builds their motor skills through attempting new feats and pushing their boundaries, and this experimentation and boundary pushing means they will be living life at the edge of their current motor abilities, leading to more injuries. Bumps and bruises are an inevitable part of childhood. The good news is that serious injuries seldom happen from a toddler's wipeout on flat, level ground. Most toddlerhood spills can be resolved with plenty of TLC and a band-aid or two, along with encouragement to get up and keep exploring. Although it's natural for parents to want to avoid seeing their child in pain at all costs, a few bumps and bruises are an unavoidable part of childhood. Though they may cause temporary pain, over the long haul those scrapes, bumps, and dings play an important role in your child's learning how to weather pain and persevere amidst setbacks.

The real concerns are things that could cause serious or life-threatening injuries such as falls from stairs, decks; windows; or other elevated surfaces. Unfortunately, these can be deadly. Such accidents can be guarded against with a little childproofing and extra vigilance, by following these steps:

  1. Install safety gates on stairs.
  2. Install window guards on your child's bedroom/play areas. If this is not possible, don't open the windows all the way, which makes it easy for a child to stumble and tumble through the screen (which will not hold the weight of a toddler falling through it).
  3. Supervise children closely around all decks or elevated surfaces.
  4. Childproof your home.

A potentially dangerous situation could occur when a fall results in a child hitting their head just right (or rather, wrong) against the edge of a table or some other protruding object. This can direct the energy of the blow to an acute spot on the temple. In rare but nonetheless frightening cases, this can inflict a fatal injury. (Though it doesn't happen often, there are documented cases of a child hitting their head on a coffee table, brushing it off and continuing about their business, only to be rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead later that night.) You can help protect against such injuries by installing foam corner guards on any problem areas in your home.

Most head injuries result in little more than a headache. Others may be far more serious. If a child seems lethargic or confused after hitting his head, you need to seek immediate medical attention. Because head injuries can be dangers, caregives need to be particularly watchful after any falls that cause a child to hit their head against an acute object, such as the edge of a table or a concrete divider or curbe. If a child seems OK but the hit sounded brutal, keep a very watchful eye on them and use your best judgment. When it comes to head injuries, it's best to play it safe. You may waste a trip to the ER 99 times out of 100 from over-reaction, but it's that one time in a hundred when the situation is serious that we don't want to miss.

Other signs to watch for that indicate your child may have taken a spill that requires medical attention are if they are unable to bear weight on a leg, is favoring a limb, or has a cut that's large or one that won't stop bleeding. If they are in obvious pain, that's another sign something more serious may be wrong.

What will others think? Another common yet often unspoken concern is this: “When people at daycare, the sore, or at the park see this bruise, they're going to think I beat him.” On several occasions I've had a teary-eyed parent ask me not to call social services because a child fell down and got a bloody lip or was hit with a ball and developed a black eye. Parents can relax. With few exceptions, most people understand that kids, especially kids this age, often hurt themselves. Unless the bruise is shaped like a hand print or otherwise indicates something amiss, you should be in the clear. Remember: child care workers and teachers ALSO spend much time around children who manage to fall and injure themselves in every manner imaginable. Wobbly-legged tots are going to sustain more injuries. It's a fact of life, and toddlerhood.

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