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Home > Health Library > Head Injury, Age 4 and Older
Most injuries to the head are minor. Bumps, cuts, and scrapes on the head and face usually heal well and can be treated the same as injuries to other parts of the body. Minor cuts on the head often cause heavy bleeding. This is because the face and scalp have many blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. Often the injury is not severe, and you can stop the bleeding with home treatment.
Some head injuries are more serious. This is called a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI can range from a mild concussion to a severe head injury. Common causes of a severe head injury include car crashes, falls, sports-related injuries, work-related accidents, and assaults and violent attacks.
Anyone with a head injury should be watched, especially when it's from the above causes. If you think any symptoms are serious, see a doctor to be checked.
When a head injury has occurred, look for other injuries to other parts of the body that also may need attention. Trouble breathing, shock, spinal injuries, and severe bleeding are all life-threatening injuries that may occur along with a head injury and require medical attention right away. Injuries to the spine, especially the neck, must be considered when there has been a head injury. Be sure to check for other injuries to the face, mouth, or teeth when there is a head injury.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury in an adult or older child may include:
Symptoms of a skull fracture may include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Symptoms of a serious head injury may include:
Other symptoms related to a head injury that may appear later include:
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Do not move the person unless there is an immediate threat to the person's life, such as a fire. If you have to move the person, keep the head and neck supported and in a straight line at all times. If the person has had a diving accident and is still in the water, float the person face up in the water.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Many minor head injuries, such as bumps, cuts, and scrapes, can be treated at home. But anyone with a head injury should be watched. If you think that any symptoms may be serious, see a doctor for an evaluation.
Follow these steps to treat at home a minor head injury, such as a bump, cut, or scrape.
If you or a loved one have an accident, try to stay calm. This will help reduce everyone's anxiety and allow you to assess the situation.
Apply firm pressure directly over the wound with a clean cloth or bandage for 15 minutes. If the cut is deep and may have penetrated the skull, emergency treatment is needed.
Apply ice or cold packs to reduce the swelling. A "goose egg" lump may appear anyway, but ice will help.
Check for injuries to other parts of the body, especially if a person has fallen. The alarm from seeing a head injury may cause you to miss other injuries that need attention.
You may be able to relieve pain from a minor head injury. You may use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. Do not use other over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain.
Most injuries are not caused by abuse. But bruises are often the first sign of possible abuse. Suspect physical abuse of a child or vulnerable adult when:
You may be able to prevent further injuries by reporting abuse. Seek help if:
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
December 13, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: December 13, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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