When people bang their heads it can be difficult to tell whether they have done any serious damage. Most head injuries are not serious and simply result on a bump or bruise. However severe, or repeated head injuries can cause damage to the brain.
Fortunately, the majority of falls or blows to the head, result in injury to the scalp only and this is more frightening than life threatening – the head and face are served by numerous blood vessels and consequently these injuries bleed profusely and can be very scary!
It is very important to look out for anything unusual following a head injury as a severe bang on the head could cause swelling and damage to the brain and it is vitally important that you recognise any early and worrying signs of increased pressure on the brain.
What to look for and what to do:
Call 999 or 112 if the casualty is an infant; has lost consciousness, even momentarily; or if a child of any age has any of these symptoms:
- won’t stop crying
- complains of head and neck pain
- isn’t walking normally
If the casualty is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is alert and behaving normally after the fall or blow:
- Apply a wrapped ice pack or instant cold pack to the injured area for 10 minutes.
- Observe them carefully for the next 48 hours. No one should go home to an empty house for the 48 hours following a severe head injury. If you notice any of the signs of brain injury (see below), phone an ambulance immediately.
- If the casualty is unusually drowsy or can’t be woken, or they show any symptoms of a brain injury (see below) call an ambulance immediately. People can go to sleep following a head injury, but only if they appear to be completely alert and showing no signs of confusion, losing consciousness or any other symptoms. If worried seek medical attention immediately.
Suspected brain injury
The brain is cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid, however a severe blow to the head may knock the brain into the side of the skull or tear blood vessels.
It can be difficult to determine the level of injury, so it’s always wise to discuss a head injury with your doctor. A clear indicator of a more serious injury is when someone loses consciousness or has signs of confusion. These symptoms can come on at any time from immediately after the accident to a couple of days later. If it is a child that is injured it is sensible for them to sleep in the same room as you for a couple of nights following a head injury.