With death by accidental falls on the rise in St. Charles County, it’s important to talk about the danger of head injuries. In St. Charles County, death by falls have risen from 17.51 per 100,000 residents in 2014 to 22.5 per 100,000 residents in 2017.
Plus, unintentional injuries are overwhelmingly the highest cause of mortality in St. Charles County– much higher than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or suicide.
With the risk of unintentional injury being so high, St. Charles County residents must be educated about head injuries and how to prevent them.
What is a Head Injury?
A head injury is considered any sort of injury to your brain, skull, or scalp. This can mean a mild bump or bruise or a serious traumatic brain injury.
The most common head injuries:
- Skull fractures
- Scalp wounds
The consequences and treatments vary widely depending on the cause and severity of the head injury. It can be difficult to assess how serious a head injury is just by looking. For example, some minor head injuries cause a lot of bleeding, but some major injuries don’t bleed at all. This is why it’s important to take all head injuries seriously and always get them assessed by a doctor.
Causes of Head Injuries
Head injuries are generally divided into two categories based on what causes them: injuries due to shaking or blows to the head.
Head injuries caused by shaking are most common in infants and small children, but they can occur to a person of any age if they are shaken violently enough.
Head injuries caused by a blow to the head are usually due to:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Physical assaults
- Sports-related accidents
Older people who are less steady on their feet are more likely to suffer from head injuries due to falling, but infants and young children are also likely to suffer head injuries from falls.
In many cases, your skull protects your brain from serious harm. But if a head injury is severe enough, it can not only injure your head but also your spine.
Symptoms of a Head Injury
Because your head has more blood vessels than any other part of your body, bleeding on the surface of your brain or within your brain is a serious concern of head injuries. But not all head injuries cause bleeding.
The following are common symptoms of a minor head injury:
- A spinning sensation
- Mild confusion
- Ringing in the ears
Symptoms of more severe head injuries include the above, plus:
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- A loss of consciousness
- Balance or coordination problems
- Serious disorientation
- Abnormal eye movements
- Inability to focus the eyes
- Loss of muscle control
- Memory loss
- Changes in mood
- Leaking clear fluid from the ear or nose
It’s important to note that many symptoms of serious brain injuries won’t appear right away. Always continue to monitor symptoms for several days after a head injury.
Medical attention for head injury should be sought immediately via 911 or going to the ER if you experience a loss of consciousness, confusion, and disorientation.
Long-term consequences of head injuries depend on the severity of the injury. Most people with minor head injuries don’t experience lasting consequences, but people with serious head injuries could face permanent changes in their personality, cognitive abilities, and physical abilities.
Serious head injuries in children can be particularly troubling due to the susceptibility of impact in developing brains.
Preventing Head Injuries
- Supervise younger children at all times
- Follow rules at water parks and swimming pools
- Don’t dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools
- Don’t wear clothing that can interfere with vision
- Don’t participate in sports when ill or very tired
- Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when biking, skating, or skateboarding
- Always wear a helmet when biking, skating, or skateboarding
- Throw out and replace damaged helmets
- Wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Secure firearms in a locked cabinet or safe, and store ammunition separately
- Remove all hazards in a home that contribute to falls– secure rugs, loose electrical cords, and put away toys
- For elderly people, install grab bars and handrails throughout the home– particularly in bathrooms
Head injuries are dangerous for people of all ages, but children and the elderly are at the highest risk of head injuries. Always take head injuries seriously. When in doubt, have a doctor check it out.
For more resources on improving the health of St. Charles County residents, register to Community Strong St. Charles.