- Most head injuries are not serious and simply cause a bump, bruise or cut.
- If your child’s head is bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean flannel or cloth for 5 to 10 minutes. If it continues to bleed, they may need to have it closed (Stitches are very rarely required and very often paper stitches (Steristrips) or skin glue can be used. This can usually be done in a minor injuries unit, an urgent treatment centre or a walk-in centre. Some GPs also assess and treat minor injuries.
- A significant head injury can result in a 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.
An Operation Ouch video on head injuries that you and your child can watch together:
When should I worry and what should I do?
Call 999 or go to A&E now if your child:
- Is behaving oddly such as becoming confused or unaware of their surroundings
- Cannot remember events (amnesia) for more than five minutes
- Loses consciousness and becomes drowsy or difficult to wake
- Has a convulsion or fit
- Has a headache that is getting worse
- Develops difficulty speaking or understanding what you are saying
- Develops weakness in their arms and legs or starts losing their balance
- Develops problems with their eyesight
- Has clear fluid or blood coming out of their nose or ears
- If your baby does not wake for feeds or cries constantly and cannot be soothed
- A large swelling or laceration (cut) bigger than 5cm if your child is under one year of age
- Has bruising around their eyes or behind their ears
- Vomits repeatedly i.e. more than twice (at least 10 minutes between each vomit) especially if there are no signs of another illness (such as fever or diarrhoea)
- You should also bring your child to the hospital if the ‘mechanism’ of injury was significant such as being involved in a road traffic collision and displaying any symptoms
Call 111 or ask for an urgent GP appointment if your child:
- Develops a persistent headache that does not go away (despite painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen)
- Develops a worsening headache
You can also contact your nearest Walk-in Centre.
If none of the above symptoms are present but your child:
- Is alert and interacts with you
- Vomits, but only up to twice
- Experiences symptoms of concussion such as mild headaches, struggling to concentrate, lacking appetite, or having problems sleeping – if you are very concerned about these symptoms or they go on for more than two weeks, contact your GP
What should you do?
Here is a link to an app from the Child Brain Injury Trust that can provide you with more information about concussions. But 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
- Let your child rest and try to avoid strenuous activity until their symptoms have settled
- Give them paracetamol 6 hourly and/or ibuprofen 8 hourly 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
How long will your 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 two weeks, contact your GP to arrange a review.
Where should you seek help?
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor
- Or contact you GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will assess if your child needs to be seen urgently. For an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment, call NHS 111
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest A&E department in critical or life threatening situations