In addition to injuries from falls and other accidents that cause head trauma, children may require emergency medical treatment for many cute conditions that involve the brain and central nervous system. These include pediatric migraine, seizures, brain and spine tumors, and severe bacterial and viral infections such as meningitis and encephalitis that affect the nervous system.
Viral meningitis and encephalitis
Infections in the brain and spinal cord can cause dangerous inflammation with a range of symptoms, including:
- Change in behavior or confusion
In extreme cases, the infection can cause brain damage, stroke, or even death. Infection of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, is called meningitis and inflammation of the brain itself is called encephalitis.
Central nervous system tumors
Central nervous system tumors are the most common solid tumors in childhood and adolescence. Evaluation and management of patients with central nervous system tumors by emergency medicine practitioners are critically important at the time of initial diagnosis as well as during emergency department visits for treatment-related complications. Increased intracranial pressure, hydrocephalus, spinal cord compression, or seizures may occur.
While most headaches aren't signs that something more is wrong, headaches may sometimes be caused by more serious medical conditions. If your child has any of the following symptoms it is important to see a doctor right away to rule out anything more serious:
- Neck pain/stiffness
- Vision changes
- Head injury
- Loss of consciousness
- A headache that is present upon waking or does not improve with sleep
Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure; this includes a high fever, low blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal, or a brain concussion. Under these circumstances, anyone can have one or more seizures. However, when a person has two or more recurrent unprovoked seizures, he or she is considered to have epilepsy. There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including an imbalance of nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, tumors, strokes, brain malformations, genetic disorders, high blood pressure, brain infection, and brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these. In the majority of cases, there may be no detectable cause for epilepsy.
If your child is experiencing illness or injury contact your Main Line Health pediatrician. A dedicated pediatric emergency room and inpatient unit is located at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Emergency rooms are also located at Lankenau Medical Center, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital.