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Head Injury, Age 4 and Older (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Home treatment for a head injury is only appropriate if there was no loss of consciousness or inability to recall current events (amnesia) after the injury. If either loss of consciousness or amnesia has occurred, check your symptoms to determine when to see your doctor.

Immediately after a head injury:

  • Check for:
    • Seizure.
    • Confusion or not acting normal. Ask the person his or her name, address, age, the date, location, and the name of the president.
    • Severe irritability or wanting to fight.
    • Inability to remember what happened just before or after the injury.
    • Trouble speaking or slurred speech.
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness that makes it hard to stand or walk.
    • Symptoms that affect one side of the body more than the other side, such as numbness, weakness, or trouble moving.
    • Loss of vision in one or both eyes, changes in the size or shape of the pupils and the reaction to light or abnormal eye movements, such as jerking motions or the eyes not working together.
    • Vomiting.
    • A severe headache.
    • Abnormally deep sleep, difficulty waking up, or extreme sleepiness.
  • If there is bleeding, apply firm pressure directly over the wound with a clean cloth or bandage for 15 minutes. See how to stop bleeding. If the cut is deep and may have penetrated the skull, emergency treatment is needed.
  • Check for injuries to other parts of the body, especially if the person has fallen. The alarm of seeing a head injury may cause you to overlook other injuries that need attention.
  • Apply ice or cold packs to reduce the swelling. A "goose egg" lump may appear anyway, but ice will help ease the pain.
  • Be sure to follow any home care instructions from your doctor. If you have questions about the instructions, call your doctor.

Minor head injuries

Many minor head injuries that do not involve loss of consciousness or amnesia may be treated at home. A person who has had a head injury should be watched closely for at least 24 hours after the injury. Home treatment can also help relieve swelling and bruising of the skin or scalp and pain caused by a minor head injury.

If a visit to your doctor is not needed immediately:

  • Apply ice or cold packs to reduce the swelling. A "goose egg" lump may appear anyway, but ice will help ease the pain.
  • You may use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to relieve a mild headache or pain from the injury.

Watch

  • The injured person should be watched by a responsible adult for the next 24 hours.
    • Callor go to an emergency room immediately if unconsciousness or seizure activity develops.
    • Seek medical care if any new symptoms, such as vomiting, a severe headache, blurred or double vision, or unsteadiness, develop after the injury (postconcussive syndrome).

Rest

  • Rest is the best treatment for a mild concussion. Get plenty of sleep at night, and take rests during the day.
  • If a mild to moderate headache develops, lie down and try to relax your entire body.
  • Take only acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to relieve a mild headache or pain from the injury. Do not use other nonprescription or prescription medicines for pain without approval from your doctor.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and illegal drugs can slow your recovery and increase your risk of a second head injury.

If vomiting occurs:

  • Wait 1 hour after the last episode of vomiting before taking liquid.
    • After an hour, drink 4 fl oz (125 mL) of clear liquid every 20 minutes for 1 hour.
    • As you feel better, begin to eat small amounts of clear soups, mild foods, and liquids.
  • Keep eating clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Gelatin dessert, dry toast, crackers, and cooked cereal are good choices.

Recovery

  • Return to your normal activities gradually. Don't try to do too much at once.
  • Avoid activities that could lead to another head injury. If your head injury occurred during a sporting event, you should be evaluated and cleared by a doctor before returning to play. For more information, see the topic Concussion.
  • Ask your doctor when it will be safe for you to drive a car or operate equipment, if that is a concern.
  • Take only acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to relieve a mild headache or pain from the injury. Do not use other nonprescription or prescription medicines for pain unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Do not use alcohol until your doctor tells you that you are well enough to do so. Alcohol and illegal drugs can slow your recovery and increase your risk of a second head injury.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Bleeding increases.
  • Bruising or discoloring behind the ears or around the eyes develops after a head injury.
  • Other symptoms develop, such as:
    • Seizure.
    • Confusion or not acting normal. Ask the person his or her name, address, and age, the date and location, and the name of the president.
    • Severe irritability or wanting to fight.
    • Inability to remember what happened just before or after the injury.
    • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech.
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness that makes it hard to stand or walk.
    • Being unable to move part of the body.
    • Loss of vision in one or both eyes, or changes in the size or shape of the pupils and the reaction to light or abnormal eye movements, such as jerking motions or the eyes not working together.
    • Vomiting.
    • A severe headache.
    • Abnormally deep sleep, difficulty waking up, or extreme sleepiness.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
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