Information and advice about the symptoms of a minor head injury, plus the signs of serious head injury and when to seek immediate medical attention.
Minor head injuries often cause a bump or bruise. As long as the person is awake (conscious) and with no deep cuts, it's unlikely there will be any serious damage.
Other symptoms of a minor head injury may include:
- a mild headache
- nausea (feeling sick)
- mild dizziness
- mild blurred vision
If these symptoms get significantly worse or if there are other, more serious symptoms, go straight to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital or call 999 to request an ambulance.
If your child or someone you know has sustained a head injury, observe them closely for 24 hours to monitor whether their symptoms change or get worse.
If you've sustained a head injury, ask a friend or family member to stay with you for the next 24 hours to keep an eye on you.
If your child has a minor head injury, they may cry or be distressed. This is normal – with attention and reassurance most children will settle down. However, seek medical assistance if your child continues to be distressed.
Signs of a serious head injury
Seek immediate medical attention if, after a knock to the head, you notice any of these symptoms in either you or your child:
- unconsciousness, either briefly or for a longer period of time
- difficulty staying awake or still being sleepy several hours after the injury
- clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears – this could be cerebrospinal fluid, which normally surrounds the brain
- bleeding from one or both ears
- bruising behind one or both ears
- any sign of skull damage or a penetrating head injury
- difficulty speaking, such as slurred speech
- difficulty understanding what people say
- reading or writing problems
- balance problems or difficulty walking
- loss of power or sensation in part of the body, such as weakness or loss of feeling in an arm or leg
- general weakness
- vision problems, such as significantly blurred or double vision
- having a seizure or fit (when your body suddenly moves uncontrollably)
- memory loss (amnesia), such as not being able to remember what happened before or after the injury
- a persistent headache
- vomiting since the injury
- irritability or unusual behaviour
If any of these symptoms are present, particularly a loss of consciousness – even if only for a short period of time – go immediately to your local A&E department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
You should also go to hospital if someone has injured their head and:
- the injury was caused by a forceful blow to the head at speed, such as being hit by a car or falling one metre or more
- the person had brain surgery before
- the person has had problems with uncontrollable bleeding or a blood clotting disorder, or is taking medication that may cause bleeding problems, such as warfarin
- the person is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
- it's possible the injury wasn't accidental – for example, you deliberately hurt yourself or someone else hurt you on purpose