Childr Health Information

Minor head injury

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Topic: General Child Health

Instructions for watching a child who has a minor head injury

This handout was written to answer some of the questions most often asked about the home care for a child who has had a minor head injury. Feel free to ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to go over any instructions you do not understand.

How is a minor head injury diagnosed?

The health care provider has examined your child’s eyes, ears, reflexes and ability to respond appropriately. Your child may have been kept for observation to detect any worsening of brain function. 

The doctor who examined your child feels he/she can be safely watched at home. A parent or another responsible adult should stay with your child and be prepared to return to the hospital if any of the symptoms listed below are noticed.

What symptoms should I watch for?

If your child has had a head injury, your child may have any of the following symptoms:

  • unusual sleepiness- it is okay to let your child sleep. You must check on you child every two to four hours for the first 12 hours after the injury. Your child should wake easily and act normally. (If your child acts normally when you wake him/her up at night, it is okay to let him/her go right back to sleep).
  • memory loss, confusion or trouble concentrating or other changes in personality such as impulsive, reckless, aggressive or abnormal behavior.
  • increasing headache
  • stiff neck
  • nausea or vomiting (two or more times of vomiting in the 12 hours after the injury)
  • bleeding or clear drainage from the nose or ears.
  • trouble hearing
  • dizziness, blurred or double vision (children close one eye to try to correct this), unequal pupil size
  • weakness, numbness or tingling of the arms and legs.

Some symptoms of a head injury can occur days, weeks, or months after the initial injury: 

  • headache-not relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol) that gets worse or lasts more than a day
  • dizziness
  • difficulty concentrating or loss of memory
  • depression, fatigue, poor school performance
  • behavioral changes
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • nausea or vomiting (two or more times in the 12 hours after injury
  • fits or convulsions (seizures – twitching or jerking movements of parts of the body, may look stiff)

If any of these changes in your child’s condition develop or if at any time you are concerned about your child, call your child’s doctor or return to the emergency department.

What should I do for my child at home?

  1. Wake your child every 2-4 hours (or as instructed by the doctor) for the first 24 hours after the injury. Your child should awaken easily and stay awake for a few minutes.
  2. In a dark room take a flashlight and shine into your child’s eyes. Your child’s pupils (small black areas in the middle of the eye) should get smaller and quickly be about the same size.
  3. Make sure your child is moving his/her arms and legs normally.
  4. Give only acetaminophen (Tylenol) for relief of pain. Use heat or cold packs for comfort.
  5. The treatment for a head injury is rest. As your child’s symptoms go away, he/she can slowly return to their usual routine. Avoid any activities that risk re-injury. Your child’s health care provider will tell you when it is safe to return to normal activities.
  6. Notify your child’s doctor if your child doesn’t wake easily, can’t move arms or legs normally and/or pupils don’t change with light or aren’t the same size.
  7. Notify your child’s doctor if you child’s headache persists for more than seven days or is not relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol).

How can I determine if my child can participate in school physical education or play sports?

  1. Your child should NOT participate until all symptoms are gone, both at rest and with exertion (example: running or playing).
  2. Clearance for return-to-participation occurs when your child no longer has a headache. If you have any questions about return to normal activities, please consult your primary health care provider or doctor.

How can I prevent a head injury?

It is essential to always use appropriate for age infant child safety seats and seat belts. Using appropriate safety equipment for sporting activities such as helmets for football, baseball, bicycling and skateboarding is important. Using appropriate techniques when playing any sport is also important.

This sheet is for general information only. If should not be considered complete. For specific information about minor head injuries and your child, ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information and resources are available in the Family Resource Center at Dayton Children's. The center is open Monday 9:00 am to 8:00 pm; Tuesday to Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; Saturdays 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. The center is closed on Sundays and holidays. Please call 937-641-3700 for more information.

PDF: Minor Head Injury

Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Corregido: 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007
Revisado: 2007

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Revised: 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007
Reviewed: 2007


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