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What You Need to Know About Toddler Falls, Bumps, and Bruises

The following information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

Mama may have called the doctor every time one of those five little monkeys bumped his head, but what do you do when it's your little monkey? The toddler years are full of bumps and bruises, which happen with great frequency as little ones learn to walk and climb on things. Moms with kids at this stage — let's talk about the stress of watching your toddlers fall down, what's normal in the way of toddler falls, and what to watch out for when a toddler takes a tumble.

Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers from some of our POPSUGAR readers.

1. Are Frequent Falls Normal For Toddlers?

When POPSUGAR reader Shelby J.'s daughter started walking, she fell down often and was "constantly getting a bump or bruise on her forehead." This is perfectly normal; from the time that kids begin pulling up, cruising, and taking steps, it's almost impossible to prevent falls. As Tarra D. confirmed, at around 10 months, her own son "was running around . . . and had a new lump, bump and bruise every day, if not two or three a day. He even split his head open! [Toddlers] are very active kids but their balance won't be right until [they are] about 2 years old, so just [be] patient."

Putting a voice to a related concern that many moms have, Natasha T. shared that she worries about how others perceive her early walker's many bruises and that there could be an unspoken assumption of abuse. But Kim G. said she shouldn't worry. Not only are bruises normal for kids at this stage, but her daughter even had a black eye once as a toddler: "If people aren't smart enough to understand that a baby learning to walk is [going to] get lots of bumps and bruises, then they don't deserve an explanation!"

Christy B. agreed, offering that doctors and other professionals know the difference: "They know [which] bruises are normal and [which] look suspicious. Bruises along the bones are normal."

2. What Should I Do After a Fall?

It's alarming, at least when it first starts happening, to watch your baby take a tumble. But experienced moms say it's important to keep those falls in perspective. You'll soon see that they happen often and that most of the time, your toddler is no worse for the wear.

Here are their tips:

  • Play it down. For minor falls, the best thing you can do is try not to make a big deal out of it. Maria Z. learned from experience that toddlers look to us to gauge their own reaction: "As long as [my son] isn't hurt I try not to worry about it. (I worried too much with my daughter). I kiss him and tell him he'll be okay. I think they do it to keep us on our toes and keep us worrying. I try to remember he is still learning to walk." Bridget C. similarly advised a quick kiss and a no-big-deal attitude as your child learns to walk. "There are always a few tears but a quick kiss and a cuddle seems to send him on his way, and he hasn't yet been scared off trying to walk, thank goodness!"
  • Apply ice to any swelling. One of the main symptoms you may have to treat is swelling. If the fall is severe, over-the-counter ibuprofen can help with both swelling and pain, if your doctor advises it (or you can try a natural remedy). But most of the time, good old-fashioned ice and a little TLC will do the trick. Christy B., a mom of four who has lots of experience with goose eggs on the head, said, "we keep boo boo bags (rice packs) in the freezer ready for such moments. Then they get lots of snuggles and love from me while I hold them and the boo boo bag on the goose egg."
  • After head bumps, keep your child awake. If you are at all unsure whether or not a bump to the head caused a concussion, it is best to keep your toddler awake until you can talk to the doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that mild head injuries usually require no treatment, but if your child shows any signs of a concussion, it is best to err on the safe side and call your pediatrician. (The Mayo Clinic has a detailed list of signs of a concussion.)

3. When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

While the vast majority of toddler bumps and bruises heal quickly, some are cause for concern.

Here's what to look for:

  • Strange Behaviour. Most kids go right back to playing within minutes or within an hour after a minor injury, and that's a good sign that you don't need to call the doctor. Many moms in our communities agree that if your child acts "strangely" after a bad fall, you should contact the pediatrician. That being said, "strange" is a very vague term, especially when it comes to toddlers. Jenn L. said to go with your gut: "Is your little one showing any signs that are not normal? That's when I would worry. But, being a mommy, if you feel that it should be looked at, then have it checked out!"
  • Loss of consciousness. You should never shrug it off if your child gets knocked out. Jessica H., a nurse and a toddler mom, advised that unconsciousness should be taken seriously even if your child is only out for a few seconds. "The main thing to look for is that [whether there] has been any type of unconsciousness, whether [for a] short or [an] extended period of time. If there has been any form of unconsciousness you should seek immediate medical treatment."
  • Vomiting and/or fever. Vomiting and/or fever are signs that something may be wrong with your child and that a trip to the doctor or ER is necessary. Keep in mind, symptoms may appear immediately after the injury, or days after. Kourtney R. shared the story of when her toddler bumped her head twice in one week and ended up with a severe concussion: "I thought she was fine [until] she started to vomit and run a fever . . . To make a super long story short, it was stated by both the ER and primary doctor that when a child hits their head it takes thirty days for the 'trauma' of the impact to heal. My daughter had a severe concussion and deep bruising and I had no clue. She was eating, playing, jumping, spinning, misbehaving, you name it, [so I] truly thought she was fine. Her first impact was on a Saturday and the second impact was [that] Wednesday. Thursday (late p.m.) is when she began to get sick."
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