Head injury and concussion

    Most head injuries are not serious. You do not usually need to go to hospital and should make a full recovery within 2 weeks.


    When to go to A&E

    Go to A&E after a head injury if you or your child have:

    • been knocked out but have now woken up
    • been vomiting since the injury
    • a headache that does not go away with painkillers
    • a change in behaviour, like being more irritable
    • problems with memory
    • been drinking alcohol or taking drugs just before the injury
    • a blood clotting disorder (like haemophilia) or take blood-thinners (like warfarin)
    • had brain surgery in the past

    You or your child could have concussion.

    Symptoms usually start within 24 hours, but sometimes may not appear for up to 3 weeks.

    Find your nearest A&E

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    When to call 999

    Call 999 if someone has hit their head and has:

    • been knocked out and has not woken up
    • difficulty staying awake or keeping their eyes open
    • a fit (seizure)
    • problems with their vision
    • clear fluid coming from their ears or nose
    • bleeding from their ears or bruising behind their ears
    • numbness or weakness in part of their body
    • problems with walking, balance, understanding, speaking or writing
    • hit their head in a serious accident, such as a car crash

    Also call 999 if you cannot get someone to A&E safely.

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    How to treat a minor head injury

    If you do not need to go to hospital, you can usually look after yourself or your child at home.

    It's normal to have symptoms such as a slight headache, or feeling sick or dazed, for up to 2 weeks.

    To help recovery:

    Do

    • hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel) to the injury regularly for short periods in the first few days to bring down any swelling
    • rest and avoid stress – you or your child do not need to stay awake if you're tired
    • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain or a headache – do not use aspirin as it could cause the injury to bleed
    • make sure an adult stays with you or your child for at least the first 24 hours – call 111 for advice if there's nobody who can stay with you

    Don't

    • do not go back to work or school until you're feeling better
    • do not drive until you feel you have fully recovered
    • do not play contact sports for at least 3 weeks – children should avoid rough play for a few days
    • do not take drugs or drink alcohol until you're feeling better
    • do not take sleeping pills while you're recovering unless a doctor advises you to

    See a GP if:

    • your or your child's symptoms last more than 2 weeks
    • you're not sure if it's safe for you to drive or return to work, school or sports
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