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Head Injury

AMBULATORY CARE:

A head injury

can include your scalp, face, skull, or brain and range from mild to severe. Effects can appear immediately after the injury or develop later. The effects may last a short time or be permanent. Healthcare providers may want to check your recovery over time. Treatment may change as you recover or develop new health problems from the head injury.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • An open scalp or skin wound, swelling, or bruising
  • Mild to moderate headache
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears or neck pain
  • Confusion, especially right after the injury
  • Change in mood, such as feeling restless or irritable
  • Trouble thinking, remembering, or concentrating
  • Drowsiness or decreased amount of energy
  • Trouble sleeping

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone else call if:

  • You cannot be woken.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You stop responding to others or you faint.
  • 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 larger than usual, or one pupil is a different size than the other.
  • You have blood or clear fluid coming out of your ears or nose.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have repeated or forceful vomiting.
  • You feel confused.
  • Your headache gets worse or becomes severe.
  • You or someone caring for you notices that you are harder to wake than usual.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Self-care:

  • Rest or do quiet activities. Limit your time watching TV, using the computer, or doing tasks that require a lot of thinking. Slowly return to your normal activities as directed. Do not play sports or do activities that may cause you to get hit in the head. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to sports.
  • Apply ice on your head for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Have someone stay with you for 24 hours , or as directed. This person can monitor you for problems and call for help if needed. When you are awake, the person should ask you a few questions every few hours to see if you are thinking clearly. An example is to ask your name or address.

Prevent another head injury:

  • Wear a helmet that fits properly. Do this when you play sports, or ride a bike, scooter, or skateboard. Helmets help decrease your risk for a serious head injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways you can protect yourself if you play sports.
  • Wear your seatbelt every time you are in a car. This helps lower your risk for a head injury if you are in a car accident.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Head Injury (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.