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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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