Skip to Content

Head Injury


A head injury

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

Signs and symptoms:

You may have an open wound, swelling, or bruising on your head. Right after the injury, you may be confused. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. You may have any of the following:

  • 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 or neck pain
  • Drowsiness or decreased amount of energy
  • Trouble sleeping

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • 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.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

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


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Rest or do quiet activities for 24 to 48 hours. 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 complications and call 911. When you are awake the person should ask you a few questions to see if you are thinking clearly. An example would be to ask your name or your 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 of a serious head injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways you can protect yourself if you play sports.
  • Wear your seat belt every time you are in a car. This helps to decrease your risk for a head injury if you are in a car accident.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 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 IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Head Injury (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Mayo Clinic Reference