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Head injury advice

What is a head injury?

Minor head injuries are very common and simply cause a bump, bruise or small cut or graze. Sometimes the brain can be injured, and this is known as a traumatic brain injury.

Concussion is a term for a mild traumatic brain injury that can happen after a head injury. Your child does not have to have been unconscious or ‘knocked out’ for concussion to happen.

Most children with head injuries do not need any treatment. If they are seen in the Emergency Department, most children will be able to go home after an assessment by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

If your child has had a significant bump to the head, or is showing any symptoms, then they may need a scan of their head and be admitted to a ward for further observations.

What should I expect at home?

Most children with minor head injuries will have no significant symptoms and will continue to recover from their head injury once they are back home.

What are the symptoms of concussion?

Children with a concussion may have the following symptoms:

  • a mild headache
  • feel sick or dizzy
  • feel more tired than usual
  • have difficulty concentrating, or remembering things
  • have emotional changes, such as being irritable, bad tempered or sad
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • be sensitive to loud noises or bright light

These symptoms are normal and should settle down over a few weeks.

Make sure your child has plenty of rest, and avoids busy environments. Make sure they avoid too much screen time (TV, phone, computer games) for the first few days.

Encourage your child to drink water and give them regular pain relief such as paracetamol will help with any headaches.

When can my child return to school or nursery?

If your child has had symptoms of concussion they should stay off school for at least 48 hours, or until their symptoms have settled down. After this, they can start a gradual return to school or nursery as much as they can tolerate.

If your child was unconscious or they stayed on a hospital ward, then they will need more time to rest before going back to school. They should avoid any contact sports for 3 weeks. Children with a more severe head injury such as a skull fracture or bleed in the brain, will need to avoid contact sports and high risk activities such as trampolines and bouncy castles for 6 months.

When should I seek medical advice?

You should ring 999 or go to the Emergency Department if any of the following symptoms develop:
  • A worsening or severe headache (despite using simple pain killers such as paracetamol)
  • Your child is abnormally sleepy or difficult to wake up
  • You are unable to wake your child
  • Repeatedly being sick (more than 2 episodes that are more than 30 minutes apart)
  • Weakness in the arms or legs, or your child becomes unsteady when walking
  • Your child is confused, or has difficulty speaking or understanding
  • In babies, a continued cry for no obvious reason
  • Your child has a fit or a seizure
  • Clear fluid leaking from their ears or nose

Further information

The Children’s Trust: Bumps Happen – information on mild head injuries and concussion in children.

QR code for The Children's Trust

Please scan QR code for The Children’s Trust

The Child Brain Injury Trust for CBIT In Hand app providing information for families after a head injury or concussion.

QR code for CBIT in hand app

Please scan QR code for the CBIT in hand app

If after reading the advice you are still concerned about your child, call 111 or return to the Emergency Department.

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: ED11

Resource Type: Article

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