Symptoms of a minor head injury 

Minor head injuries often cause a bump or bruise. As long as the person is awake (conscious) and with no deep cuts, it's unlikely there will be any serious damage.

Other symptoms of a minor head injury may include:

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

If these symptoms get significantly worse or if there are other, more serious symptoms, go straight to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital or call 999 to request an ambulance.

Close observation

If your child or someone you know has sustained a head injury, observe them closely for 24 hours to monitor whether their symptoms change or get worse.

If you've sustained a head injury, ask a friend or family member to stay with you for the next 24 hours to keep an eye on you.

If your child has a minor head injury, they may cry or be distressed. This is normal – with attention and reassurance most children will settle down. However, seek medical assistance if your child continues to be distressed.

Signs of a serious head injury

Seek immediate medical attention if, after a knock to the head, you notice any of these symptoms in either you or your child:

  • unconsciousness, either briefly or for a longer period of time
  • difficulty staying awake or still being sleepy several hours after the injury
  • clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears – this could be cerebrospinal fluid, which normally surrounds the brain
  • bleeding from one or both ears
  • bruising behind one or both ears
  • any sign of skull damage or a penetrating head injury
  • difficulty speaking, such as slurred speech
  • difficulty understanding what people say
  • reading or writing problems
  • balance problems or difficulty walking
  • loss of power or sensation in part of the body, such as weakness or loss of feeling in an arm or leg
  • general weakness
  • vision problems, such as significantly blurred or double vision
  • having a seizure or fit (when your body suddenly moves uncontrollably)
  • memory loss (amnesia), such as not being able to remember what happened before or after the injury
  • a persistent headache
  • vomiting since the injury
  • irritability or unusual behaviour

If any of these symptoms are present, particularly a loss of consciousness – even if only for a short period of time – go immediately to your local A&E department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

You should also go to hospital if someone has injured their head and:

  • the injury was caused by a forceful blow to the head at speed, such as being hit by a car or falling one metre or more
  • the person had brain surgery before 
  • the person has had problems with uncontrollable bleeding or a blood clotting disorder, or is taking medication that may cause bleeding problems, such as warfarin
  • the person is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
  • it's possible the injury wasn't accidental – for example, you deliberately hurt yourself or someone else hurt you on purpose

Page last reviewed: 25/09/2015

Next review due: 25/09/2017