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Skull Fracture in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a skull fracture?

A skull fracture is a break in a bone in your child's head.


What are the signs and symptoms of a skull fracture?

Signs and symptoms depend on the cause of your child's skull fracture:

  • Misshapen head
  • Headaches, dizziness, or jaw pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bulging fontanelle (soft spot) in infants
  • A lump or swelling on the head
  • Blood or clear fluid coming out of his or her nose or one or both of his or her ears
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Bruising behind the ears or around the eyes
  • Increased sleepiness or confusion

How is a skull fracture diagnosed?

  • Neurologic signs, also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status, are used to check brain function. During a neuro check, a healthcare provider will check how your child's pupils react to light. He or she may check your child's memory and how easily he or she wakes up. His or her hand grasp and balance may also be tested. How your child responds to the neuro checks can show if his or her injury has affected his or her brain.
  • X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI may be used to check your child's skull, brain tissue, and blood vessels. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help his or her skull show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.
  • A nasal CSF test is done to check for a cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leak caused by a skull fracture. A test strip is used to collect fluid from your child's nose. The strip will show if the fluid is CSF or normal nasal drainage.

How is a skull fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on the type of fracture your child has. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be used to prevent or treat pain, seizures, or a bacterial infection. Your child may also need medicine to decrease fluid pressure in his or her head.
  • A neck brace may need to be worn to prevent your child from moving his or her head and neck.
  • Surgery may be needed correct damage to your child's skull and surrounding tissue. If he or she has a wound, surgery may be used to remove objects, dirt, or damaged tissue.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What should I do if my child has a head trauma?

  • Check if your child is breathing or has a pulse. Start CPR if needed. Have someone call 911 or a hospital for assistance.
  • Do not move your child until there is medical help available. If your child is vomiting, turn him or her on his or her side by holding both sides of his or her head and shoulders while moving him or her. Do not allow his or her head and neck to bend, twist, or turn.
  • Do not put anything into your child's mouth.
  • Do not touch anything that is sticking out from his or her head.
  • Apply direct pressure to your child's head if he or she is bleeding. Place another cloth on top of the first cloth if it becomes soaked with blood.
  • If your child has a seizure, stay with him or her until the seizure ends. After the seizure, roll him or her onto his or her side. Do not move your child while he or she is having a seizure.

How can a skull fracture be prevented?

  • Always securely fasten your child in a car safety seat in the back seat.
  • Do not leave your baby alone on any furniture, such as a bed or couch. Place him or her in a crib or playpen if you must leave him or her unattended.
  • Do not let your child dive into a shallow pool or in water where the depth is not known.
  • Make sure your child wears proper protective gear when he or she plays sports. Gear includes wrist guards, a helmet, kneepads, and a mouth guard that meet safety standards.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has a seizure.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child is suddenly dizzy and short of breath.
  • Your child seems confused or more fussy, restless, or sleepier than usual.
  • Your child has blood or fluid coming out of one or both ears.
  • Your child is not hearing well, has slurred speech, or blurred vision.
  • Your child has weakness on one side of his or her body or trouble with balance.
  • One of your child's pupils is larger than the other.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's headache worsens even after you give him pain medicines.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's injury, treatment, or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Further information

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