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First Aid: Head Injuries

First Aid

Most childhood head injuries are minor and hurt only the outside of the head. On rare occasions, a severe head injury can cause bruising or bleeding in the brain. This type of head injury requires immediate medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

Of a mild head injury:

  • minor scalp swelling
  • cut on the scalp
  • mild headache
  • vomiting two or three times

Of a potentially serious head injury:

  • unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
  • obvious serious wound
  • blood or clear fluid from the nose or ear
  • changes in behavior, such as sluggishness, agitation, confusion, or excessive sleepiness
  • dizziness or stumbling
  • seizure
  • vomiting more than two or three times or vomiting hours after the injury
  • severe or worsening headache

What to Do

  • Call 911 for any serious head injury. Do not move an unconscious child. If your child is not breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if you’ve been trained.
  • Call the doctor right away if an infant has a head injury or a child of any age has neck pain or won’t stop crying after a head injury.
  • Allow your child to sleep if he or she is tired.

Think Prevention!

  • Childproof your house.
  • Don’t use infant walkers.
  • Make sure kids wear protective gear for contact sports, biking, skating, and skateboarding.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014