Head injuries

  • Most head injuries are not serious and simply cause a bump or a bruise. 
  • If your child’s head is bleeding, apply pressure for 5-10 minutes. If it continues to bleed, they may need to have it glued (stitches are very rarely required). This can usually be done in a minor injuries unit or a walk in centre. Some GP practices offer minor injuries units.
  • A significant head injury can result in concussion. A child or young person does not have to have been unconscious, or “knocked out” for concussion to occur. Common symptoms of concussion include headache, fatigue, poor sleep and difficulty concentrating / learning.

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What should you do?

  • In general, if your child cries immediately after a head injury and returns to their normal self in a short time, they can be managed at home. You should observe them closely for the next couple of days, checking that they are responding normally to you. They may be pale or quieter than normal for the first couple of hours after a head injury – this is normal.
  • If your child is under a year of age, begins vomiting, has a headache that is getting worse, is behaving oddly or has fallen from a height taller than they are, they will need to be seen urgently by a medical practitioner. Call your GP surgery or ring NHS 111.
  • Let your child rest and try to avoid strenuous activity until their symptoms have settled.
  • Give them paracetamol (calpol) and/or ibuprofen if they are in pain.
  • If your child has been concussed, a graded return to normal activities/school is always recommended. It is best to avoid computer games, sporting activity and excessive exercise until all symptoms have improved.
  • For support with concussion,  contact the Child Brain Injury Trust on  0303 303 2248  or download their factsheet

 

Download 'Head Injury' advice sheet

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How long will my child’s symptoms last?

  • Your child is likely to return to normal within a few hours of a minor head injury.
  • In the few days following a more significant head injury, your child may experience mild headaches, might be irritable, may struggle to concentrate, may lack appetite and may have problems sleeping. If these symptoms go on for more than 2 weeks, make an appointment to see your GP.

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When should you worry?

Your child should see a doctor if they...

  • have been knocked out/unconscious.
  • are confused / have difficulty understanding what you are saying.
  • are getting increasingly sleepy.
  • have difficulty seeing or have double vision.
  • have weakness in their arms or legs or if they are unsteady on their feet.
  • cannot remember the event (amnesia).
  • have vomited 3 or more times.
  • have a fit (seizure).
  • have blood coming from one or both ears.
  • have clear fluid dripping out of their ear or nose.
  • have neck pain.

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Where should you seek help?

  • If your child is under a year of age, begins vomiting, has a headache that is getting worse, is behaving oddly or has fallen from a height taller than they are, they will need to be seen urgently by a medical practitioner. Call your GP surgery or ring NHS 111.
  • If your child has any of the above features, they need urgent help. Call 999 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

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