What to do after a baby falls
Even though it can be frightening, a fall from a bed does not usually cause any serious harm. However, injuries are possible, so caregivers should be aware of signs indicating that a baby needs a medical check after a fall.
Read on for information on what to do if a baby falls, the possible injuries that it can cause, and how to care for them afterward.
What to do first
If a baby falls from a bed, staying calm is important.
When a baby or toddler falls off a bed, it is vital to remain calm and quickly assess the situation.
Immediately call 911 without picking the baby up if:
- they have lost consciousness
- they are bleeding a lot
- it looks as though they have a serious head injury
Moving a baby with a head or spine injury can cause serious complications. However, if the baby is in a place where there is a risk of further injury, it is okay to move them gently to a safer location.
If the baby is vomiting or having a seizure, gently turn them onto their side. Make sure to keep the baby's neck straight while rolling them over.
It is fine to pick up the baby and comfort them if they are conscious and do not appear to have any serious injuries.
Gently check them over, paying close attention to their head for bumps, bruises, or other injuries. Check the rest of the baby's body, including the arms, legs, chest, and back.
If the baby does not show any visible signs of injury and does not appear to be acting differently, it should be sufficient to monitor them closely for a short time to make sure that nothing changes.
Several possible injuries can result from a fall, including:
A doctor should assess head injuries in case of concussion.
A concussion is a type of head injury that typically occurs when a blow to the head causes the brain to jolt inside the skull. It can be difficult to detect a concussion in a baby or toddler because they cannot easily tell a person their symptoms.
Signs of a concussion in an infant include:
- loss of consciousness
- inconsolable crying
- excessive sleepiness
- prolonged periods of quietness
- a refusal to eat
- temporary loss of recently acquired skills
The scalp is the skin covering the head, and it contains many small blood vessels. Even a minor cut or injury can bleed a lot, so it can look more serious than it is.
Sometimes, bleeding in and under the scalp can cause a bump or swelling to appear on the baby's head, which may take a few days to go away.
The skull is a bone that surrounds the brain. It is possible for a fall from a high place to break it.
Infants with a skull fracture may have:
- a depressed area on the head
- clear fluid draining from the eyes or ears
- bruising around the eyes or ears
Take the baby to the emergency room immediately if they have any of these signs.
The brain is a delicate structure that contains many blood vessels, nerves, and other internal tissues. A fall can damage or injure these structures, sometimes severely.
When to get emergency care
It is important to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if the baby shows any of these signs after falling off a bed:
- loss of consciousness
- abnormal or slow breathing
- bleeding or leakage of clear fluid from the nose or ears
- pupils of different sizes
- bulging of the soft spot on the head
- a serious wound
- uncontrollable crying
- excessive sleepiness or inability to wake up
- changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Parents and caregivers have a powerful intuition. If something seems wrong with a baby, it is essential to take them to see a doctor. It is always better to be safe and to make sure that no serious injuries occurred.
Care at home
A doctor may recommend rest for a baby after a fall.
A baby might be a little sleepy after a fall, especially if it happened during or after a nap or bedtime. It may be helpful to let the baby rest. However, the doctor might recommend waking up the baby at regular intervals to check on them.
Waking the baby can make it easier to detect any signs of a more severe head injury developing. The baby should:
- be breathing normally
- recognize their parent or caregiver
- be easy to wake up
If any of these are not the case, check back in with the doctor or seek emergency care.
Falling off a bed can cause head, neck, or body pain in the baby. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help to make the baby more comfortable. It is best to check the medication type and dosage with the doctor.
Rest is the best treatment after any head injury. Parents and caregivers should promote quiet activities for a few days and ensure that the infant avoids rough play.
Preventing falls is the best way to keep a baby from getting a head injury. However, accidents do happen. After a fall, it is important to re-evaluate safety and child-proofing in the home.
Never leave a baby on an adult bed without supervision, even if pillows are in place to prevent them from getting close to the edge. In addition to falls, adult beds pose the risk of other types of accident, including entrapment or suffocation injuries.
Also, do not place a car seat or bouncy seat on top of an elevated surface, even after strapping in the baby.
Always put the baby to bed in a crib that has a tight-fitting mattress and sheet. The crib should not contain soft bedding that could trap or suffocate the baby.
Even though it is scary for both the caregiver and the baby, most falls do not cause serious injuries. After a fall, it is important to stay calm and quickly assess the baby. Seek emergency care immediately if necessary.
Understanding and using fall prevention measures can help to stop a fall from happening or reoccurring.