Head injuries

Head injuries

Children frequently bang their heads and it is difficult to tell whether they have done any serious damage. Most head injuries are not serious and simply result in a bump or bruise. However, severe or repeated head injuries can cause damage to the brain.

Fortunately, the majority of childhood 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!

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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 your child 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 child is not an infant, has not lost consciousness, and is alert and behaving normally after the fall or blow:

o Apply a wrapped ice pack or instant cold pack to the injured area for 10 minutes.
o Observe your child carefully for the next 48 hours. If you notice any of the signs of brain injury (see below), phone an ambulance immediately.
o If the incident has occurred close to bedtime or naptime and your child falls asleep soon afterward, check in every few hours to look for twitching limbs or disturbances in colour or breathing. It is ok for your child to go to sleep – there is no need to keep a child awake after a head injury – but you do need to remain vigilant. If you are concerned in any way, wake them to check on them properly.

  • If your child can’t be woken, or they show any symptoms of a brain injury (see below) call an ambulance immediately.

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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 a child 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. It is sensible to have your child sleep in the same room as you for a couple of nights following a head injury.

What to Look for and What to Do

Call an ambulance if your child shows any of these symptoms:

  • unconsciousness
  • abnormal breathing
  • obvious serious wound or suspected skull fracture
  • bleeding or clear fluid from the nose, ear, or mouth
  • disturbance of speech or vision
  • pupils of unequal size
  • weakness or paralysis
  • dizziness
  • neck pain or stiffness
  • fitting
  • vomiting more than two to three times  - (it is not unusual for children to vomit immediately after an accident as a response to pain, so do not panic if your child is sick just once after a head injury).


If your child is unconscious:

  • If they are breathing – roll them into the recovery position (on their side so that their tongue falls forward in their mouth and any vomit can drain away), trying not to twist their neck or spine at all. Any head injury could have caused spinal damage as the head recoils from the blow.
  • If they are not breathing start CPR.
  • Call for an ambulance.


If your child is conscious and it is a serious head injury:

  • Phone for an ambulance
  • Do your best to keep your child calm and still – try not to let them twist as if they have damaged their spine this cord lead to a spinal cord injury.
  • If there is bleeding, grab a clean cloth and apply pressure.
  • Do not attempt to clean the wound as it could make things worse.
  • Do not apply forceful direct pressure to the wound if you suspect the skull is fractured.
  • Never remove any object embedded in a wound.


Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit www.firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

Onlinefirstaid.com have developed unique on-line first aid training to allow you to learn these vital skills at a time and place that suits you.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

First Aid for Life is an Award Winning and fully regulated First Aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical and emergency services professionals and the training will be tailored to your needs. Courses at our purpose built venue in Balham or we will come to you. Online First Aid courses also available for you to easily learn these vital skills at a time and place to suit you.

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