Head Injury

What causes a head injury?

A head injury is most often caused by a blow to the head. This may occur from a fall, being struck in the head, or a motor vehicle accident.

What are the symptoms of a head injury?

Right after the injury, you may be confused. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks:

  • Mild to moderate headache

  • Dizziness or loss of balance

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Change in mood, such as feeling restless or irritable

  • Trouble thinking, remembering, or concentrating

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Drowsiness or decreased amount of energy

  • Change in how you sleep

How is a head injury diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and symptoms. You may need a neuro exam to check your brain function. Your healthcare provider will check how your pupils react to light. He will check your memory, hand grasp, and balance.

How is a head injury treated?

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest or do quiet activities for the first 24 hours. Slowly return to your normal activities as directed. You may not be able to play sports or do activities that may result in a blow to the head.

  • Ice helps decrease pain and swelling. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel, and place it on your injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.

  • Have someone wake you at different times during the night as directed. Have the person ask you a few questions to see if you are thinking clearly. An example would be to ask your name or your address.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Someone tries to wake you and cannot do so.

  • You have blood or clear fluid coming out of your ears or nose.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have repeated or forceful vomiting.

  • You do not know where you are, or you do not recognize people who should be familiar.

  • You have blurry or double vision.

  • Your speech becomes slurred or confused.

  • You have arm or leg weakness, loss of feeling, or new problems with coordination.

  • Your pupils are unequal in size.

  • You have a seizure.

  • You stop responding to others or you faint.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You or someone caring for you notices that you are harder to wake than usual.

  • Your symptoms get worse during the first few days after the injury.

  • You have new headaches that are severe or get worse in the days after the injury.

  • Your symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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