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Children with hydrocephalus: what is the safest way of traveling by car?

Children with hydrocephalus - what is the safest way of traveling by car?


Hydrocephalus, also known as spina bifida, is a condition whose main characteristic is excessive build-up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which causes the brain ventricles to widen and increases intracranial pressure, which can irreversibly damage the brain. The term comes from the Greek words "hydro" (water) and “cephalus” (head).

The cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain and spinal cord and acts as a kind of shock absorber for the former, protecting it against sudden movements and contact with the inner part of the cranium. In the case of hydrocephalus, too much cerebrospinal fluid builds up for various reasons, such as a blockage to the flow of CSF, its inability to be properly absorbed in the blood, or because the brain produces too much of this fluid.

The increase in intracranial pressure means that the brain is pushed towards the upper part of the cranium and this is when injury happens. Hydrocephalus tends to occur in small children, generally due to infections of the central nervous system (meningitis, for example, in babies), labor-related injuries, tumors in the nervous system or injuries in general.


There are various options for looking after children with hydrocephalus when traveling by car. First and foremost, you need to get the advice of a specialist to understand the scope of the disease, as its treatment and prognosis depend a great deal on the cause, the patient's age and other factors. The best prognosis is for hydrocephalus that is not caused by infection.

When traveling by car, you should choose a child seat that maximizes the comfort of a child with hydrocephalus; in other words, one that provides enough space in the area around the head to prevent any pain. In the case of babies who need to travel lying down, you should use an approved carrycot. 

We strongly recommend that you choose rear-facing child seats that allow children to travel for as long as possible in this position, which also means choosing seats that offer the maximum weight limit when facing backwards. By rear-facing child seats we mean seats that are designed especially to face in the opposite direction to the direction of travel of the car.

When the child starts using front-facing seats, it is a good idea to select a model whose backrest can be angled to accommodate the child comfortably and avoid any situations in which their head might loll forward if they fall asleep.

Sometimes you may need to consider the use of large medical-grade seats which have more space for the head and allow the back to be reclined slightly, though as we mentioned earlier, this will depend on the child's specific circumstances and the cause and treatment of the disease. If you have any doubts, you should always consult a doctor.


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