First Aid: Head Injuries

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First Aid

Most childhood head injuries are minor and hurt only the outside of the head. On rare occasions, a severe head injury can cause bruising or bleeding in the brain. This type of head injury requires immediate medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

Of a mild head injury:

Of a potentially serious head injury:

  • unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
  • obvious serious wound
  • blood or clear fluid from the nose or ear
  • changes in behavior, such as sluggishness, agitation, confusion, or excessive sleepiness
  • dizziness or stumbling
  • seizure
  • vomiting more than two or three times or vomiting hours after the injury
  • severe or worsening headache

What to Do

  • Call 911 for any serious head injury. Do not move an unconscious child. If your child is not breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if you've been trained.
  • Call the doctor right away if an infant has a head injury or a child of any age has neck pain or won't stop crying after a head injury.
  • Allow your child to sleep if he or she is tired.

Think Prevention!

  • Childproof your house.
  • Don't use infant walkers.
  • Make sure kids wear protective gear for contact sports, biking, skating, and skateboarding.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationNational Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.
Web SiteChildren's Safety Network Made up of several resource centers funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Safety Network works to reduce injuries and prevent violence for children and adolescents.
OrganizationAmerican Sports Medicine Institute The mission of ASMI is to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.


Related Articles

First Aid: Falls Although most result in mild bumps and bruises, some falls can cause serious injuries that need medical attention.
Head Injuries Head injuries fall into two categories: external and internal. Learn more about both kinds, how to prevent them, and what to do if your child is injured.
Sports Medicine Center Get tips on everything from finding the best sport for your kids to preventing and handling injuries.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety ATVs are off-road vehicles for recreational use. But kids 16 and younger shouldn't ride them. Find out why, and more, here.
Concussions The term concussion conjures up the image of a child knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen with any head injury, often without any loss of consciousness.
Seizures Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Find out what you need to know about seizures and what to do if your child has one.
Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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