Head Injuries

Authored by Dr Gurvinder Rull, 09 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 09 Jul 2017

This leaflet is intended for people who have been assessed by a doctor or nurse following a head injury (and for their carers), but who have been allowed home. Always see a doctor or nurse if you are concerned about an injury.

Should I be worried?

Minor head injury and knocks to the head are common, particularly in children. Following the injury, if the person is awake (conscious) and there is no deep cut or severe head damage, it is unusual for there to be any damage to the brain.

However, sometimes a knock to the head can cause damage to the brain or to a blood vessel next to the brain. A damaged blood vessel may bleed into the brain. This is uncommon but can be serious, as a build-up of clotting blood can cause pressure on the brain.

Features that may be worrying and mean you (or your carers) should seek immediate help include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Worsening headache not going away with paracetamol.
  • Confusion, strange behaviour, and any problems with understanding or speaking.
  • Inability to remember events before or after the head injury.
  • Being sick (vomiting).
  • You are taking medications which thin the blood.
  • Boggy scalp swelling (more than 5 cm size in children) may indicate a skull fracture and increased risk of brain haemorrhage.

Read more about the symptoms of head injury.

What should I do?

Try not to panic - call for help if someone is nearby. There are features which provide information about how severe the head injury is, such as level of responsiveness, severe headache and memory loss.

Who needs medical help?

Medical help is required if:

  • They are over 65 years of age.
  • They have been drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs.
  • They are not improving.
  • They have any of the serious features.
  • You are concerned about how alert they are or they are not responding normally.

Call 999/112/911 for an ambulance and keep checking on them while you are waiting.

Learn more about the assessment of a person with a head injury.

Why have I been given a head injury instructions leaflet?

'Head injury instructions' are given to people who have had a head injury. These provide information, including symptoms to look out for following a knock to the head. These should be read by you and your carer.

Find out more about aftercare following a head injury.

Further reading and references

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