Minor Head Injuries: Symptoms, Treatments, & What’s Normal

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Minor head injuries are common in childhood and are usually not a serious problem.

If your child suffers from a blow to the head because of a fall, a motor vehicle crash, or a sports injury, it could cause the brain to have trouble working normally for a short time.

Sometimes being forcefully shaken may also cause a minor head injury.

Minor Head Injury Symptoms

Every minor head injury is different. Right after the injury, your child may seem dazed. Other symptoms may show up right away.

Some symptoms may not happen for days or weeks after the minor head injury. Symptoms of a minor head injury may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. After the injury, your child may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Mild to moderate headache.
  • Dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting (throwing up).
  • Change in mood (becomes restless or irritable).
  • Change in the way your child plays or works at school.
  • Trouble thinking, remembering things, or concentrating (giving full attention to one thing for a period of time).
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Short-term loss of newly learned skills, such as toilet training.
  • Drowsiness or decreased amount of energy.
  • Change in normal sleeping pattern (sleeps more than usual or cannot sleep).

Symptoms may be so minor that they are hard to notice. Some children may act fine, even if they feel different than normal. The injury itself may make it hard for your child to know that something is different. Ask your child if they notice any symptoms. You will also need to watch your child more closely for a few weeks.

When Should I be Concerned About My Child’s Head Injury?

If your child has any of the following symptoms, you should immediately call for an ambulance:

  • Pupils (black part in the center of the eye) are unequal in size, and this is new for your child.
  • Seizures (convulsions).
  • Cannot be woken up.
  • Stops responding to you or passes out (faints).

Your child should be seen in an emergency room, doctors office, or clinic immediately if he/she shows signs of:

  • Increasing confusion or a change in personality.
  • Blood or clear fluid coming out of the ears or nose.
  • Not knowing where he/she is, or does not recognize people that are familiar.
  • New problems with vision (blurry or double vision).
  • Repeated or forceful vomiting.
  • Slurred or confused speech.
  • Your child is an infant and has a bulging soft spot (fontanelle) on the head.
  • Weakness, loss of feeling, or new problems with coordination (balance and movement).

What’s Considered Normal in the Days Following A Minor Head Injury?

It is common to have a headache or feel dizzy after a minor head injury. Some children who are thought to have a minor injury may have a more serious injury. The symptoms of a serious head injury may not show up right away. It is very important to watch your child for more serious symptoms after a minor head injury.

Your Child May be at Higher Risk if He or She:

  • Had a previous head injury or concussion.
  • Is on medicine that thins blood, or has a bleeding disorder.
  • Is less than one year old.
  • Has other neurologic (brain) problems.
  • Has difficulty walking and falls often.
  • Is active in high impact contact sports, like soccer and football.

Minor Head Injury Treatment

Usually no treatment is needed for a minor head injury. The most important thing you can do for your child is to watch for signs of a more serious problem.

Allow your child to get plenty of rest. Use an ice pack to decrease your child’s pain and swelling, right after an injury and up to 24 to 48 hours afterwards. Cover the ice pack with a towel so it is not directly on the skin (which could cause frostbite), and use for only 20 minutes at a time.

Ask your doctor what can be done to protect your child from another blow to the head to give the brain time to heal. Your child might be advised to limit activity. Make sure you tell teachers, baby sitters, and other adults active in your child’s care about the situation.