Content Map Terms

Head Injuries in Children: Problems to Watch For

British Columbia Specific Information

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a serious head injury will help you get the right care. Speak with a health care provider about the injury as soon as possible. If you think a head injury might be serious, call 9-1-1 or visit an emergency department right away. For non-emergency information or advice, call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse any time of the day, every day of the year.

If your child’s health care provider finds no signs of a serious head injury, you may be advised to monitor your child in the hours, days and weeks following the injury. Only when your child’s health care provider advises you that it is safe for your child to go home in your care, follow the advice on caring for your child at home:

For more information about head injury, including concussion recognition, diagnosis, treatment and management, see:

Topic Overview

What to watch for after a head injury

A minor head injury is sometimes hard to distinguish from a more serious injury to the brain even when there is no visible bleeding or injury on the outside of the skull.

Check for the following changes immediately after a head injury:

  • A significant change in the child's level of consciousness
  • Confusion or not acting normal, such as extreme fussiness or crying that cannot be comforted
  • Abnormally deep sleep, trouble waking up, or extreme sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Symptoms that affect one side of the body more than the other side, such as weakness or problems moving an arm or leg
  • Loss of vision
  • Seizure

A decrease in level of consciousness following a head injury may signal a life-threatening problem caused by bleeding, injury, or swelling within or around the brain. A child's level of consciousness can deteriorate suddenly or gradually. This change can be permanent or temporary.

If a parent or caregiver can't be sure that a child was conscious following a head injury, a visit to a doctor is needed for further evaluation.

Credits

Current as of:
August 4, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine