Head Injury

Brief Version

What is a head injury?

Most head injuries hurt only the scalp, not the brain. Your child might have a big lump even if it was a minor injury because there is a large blood supply to the scalp. For the same reason small cuts on the head may bleed a lot. Only 1% to 2% of injured children have a skull fracture. Your child has not had a concussion unless he passes out, acts very confused, or cannot remember what happened.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Wound care. Call the doctor right away if the skin is split open and might need stitches. Wash any minor scrapes with soap and water. Apply pressure with a clean cloth (sterile gauze if you have it) for 10 minutes to stop any bleeding. For swelling, apply a cold pack or ice bag for 20 minutes. This will also reduce pain.
  • Rest. Encourage your child to lie down and rest until all symptoms are gone (or for at least 2 hours). It is okay for your child to sleep. You don't have to try to keep him awake. Just have him sleep nearby so you can check on him from time to time.
  • Diet. Give only clear fluids (ones you can see through) until your child has gone 2 hours without vomiting.
  • Pain medicines. Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), as needed for pain relief. Wait 2 hours to be sure your child isn't going to vomit from the head injury
  • Special precautions. Wake up your child twice during the night, once at your bedtime and once 4 hours later. Wake him up and get him to walk and talk. Do this for 2 nights. After that, go back to a normal routine.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • The skin is split open and might need stitches.
  • The headache becomes severe.
  • Vomiting occurs three or more times.
  • Your child's vision becomes blurred or double.
  • Your child becomes difficult to awaken or confused.
  • Walking or talking becomes difficult.
  • Your child's symptoms get worse in any other way.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-13
Last reviewed: 2009-06-15
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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