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Head injuries

Please note – The content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you are feeling unwell, make an appointment to see your GP or contact NHS 111. In an emergency, dial 999.

All head injuries are potentially serious and require a proper assessment because they can result in impaired consciousness. Injuries may be associated with damage to the brain tissue or to blood vessels inside the skull, or with a skull fracture.

A head injury may produce concussion, which is a brief period of unconsciousness followed by complete recovery. Some head injuries may produce compression of the brain, which is life-threatening. It is, therefore, important to be able to recognise possible compression. In particular, a deteriorating level of response.

A head wound should alert you to the risk of deeper, underlying damage, such as a skull fracture, which may be serious. Bleeding inside the skull may also occur and lead to compression. Clear fluid or watery blood leaking from the ear or nose are signs of serious injury.


Minor head injuries

Minor head injuries are common nd should not result in any permanent damage.

The symptoms of a minor head injury are usually mild and short lived. Symptoms may include:

  • a mild headache
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • mild dizziness
  • mild blurred vision

If you experience these mild symptoms after a knock, bump or blow to the head, you won’t usually require any specific treatment. However, you should go to your local accident and emergency (A&E) department for a check-up.

If your symptoms significantly worsen or you develop any new symptoms after being discharged, you should return to A&E straight away or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Any casualty with an injury to the head should be assumed to have a neck (spinal) injury as well and should be treated accordingly.


Severe head injuries

Severe head injuries require immediate medical attention because there is a risk of potentially serious damage to the brain.

Signs of a severe head injury can include:

  • unconsciousness – either brief (concussion) or for a longer period of time
  • fits or seizures – when the body suddenly moves uncontrollably
  • difficulty speaking or staying awake
  • problems with the senses – such as loss of hearing or double vision
  • repeated vomiting
  • blood or clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
  • memory loss (amnesia)

If you notice any of these symptoms after a head injury, immediately go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Last updated: April 22, 2020