Head Injury

A head injury is any injury to the head, often resulting from a fall or direct injury to the head.  There are many small blood vessels in the skin of the face and scalp, which is why even minor head injuries may cause significant bleeding and/or swelling.  The primary concern with any head injury is to assess for brain injury, also called a concussion.  There is often no correlation between the amount of bleeding and/or swelling and the possibility of a brain injury.


  • Stop the bleeding – apply direct firm pressure to any open wound on the head for several minutes.  If the bleeding does not stop after several minutes call our office for advice
  • Ice/Cold Compress – directly applying an ice pack or other cold compress to the injured area helps to reduce any swelling or bruising
  • Monitor – a brain injury after a head injury presents within the first 24-48 hours.  During this time watch your child closely for signs of concussion

Red flags

In young children a mild brain injury often has no associated symptoms and resolves without treatment.  In older children brain injuries, also called concussions, may range from mild to severe. See the Concussion page for signs, symptoms and management of mild to moderate concussions in children and teens.  Signs of a significant brain injury include:

  • Increased drowsiness or difficulty waking from sleep
  • Vomiting more than 2 times
  • Behavior or personality changes (irritability, confusion etc)
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty using arms or legs
  • Pupils unequal in size or that do not shrink when a light is shined in the eye
  • Slurred speech or difficulty talking
  • Seizures

Takeaway message

With any head injury the primary concern is to monitor for a brain injury. Brain injuries may range from mild to severe and are discussed under concussion page.

When to call

Call our office if your child has persistent uncontrolled bleeding, significant behavior changes or frequent vomiting.  Also call with any question or concerns after a head injury.

Additional info

Additional information on head injuries and when to seek emergency care from the American Academy of Pediatrics