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Head Injury In Children


A head injury is most often caused by a blow to the head. This may occur from a fall, a sports injury, or a motor vehicle accident. Forceful shaking may also cause a head injury.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You cannot wake your child.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has repeated or forceful vomiting.
  • Your child has blood or clear fluid coming out of his ears or nose.
  • Your child does not know where he is, or does not recognize people who should be familiar.
  • Your child has blurry or double vision.
  • Your child's speech becomes slurred or confused.
  • Your child has a bulging soft spot on his head.
  • Your child has weakness, loss of feeling, or new problems with coordination.
  • Your child's pupils are unequal in size.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child stops responding to you or passes out.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child is harder to wake than usual.
  • Your child's symptoms get worse during the first few days after his injury.
  • Your child will not stop crying or will not eat.
  • Your child has headaches that are severe or get worse in the days after the injury.
  • Your child's symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • 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. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your child:

  • Rest or quiet activities will be needed for the first 24 hours. Your child may not be able to play sports or do activities that may result in a blow to the head. Ask when your child can return to his usual activities.
  • 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 child's injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Wake your child during the night as directed. Ask him a few questions, such as his name or his favorite food, to see if he is alert.
  • Tell your child's teachers, coaches, or daycare providers about the injury and symptoms to watch for.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

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

© 2016 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.

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.