What is a head injury?
Head injuries are a wide-ranging and complex topic that can span a simple bump or cut on the head to traumatic brain injury. Simply put, a head injury is an injury of some sort to the head. These injuries could be to the scalp, the face, the skull, or the brain. Because your head houses your brain, your head and neck include your eyes, your airways, connect your brain to your spinal cord, and your head contains more blood vessels than any other part of the body, head injuries can be very serious. But just like many other injuries, they can vary drastically in type and severity, depending on the situation.
Types of head injuries
The types of head injuries one might experience vary widely. A head injury might include:
- Cuts or lacerations to the scalp or face – these will often require stitching
- Puncture wounds that can penetrate the skull
- Fractures of the skull or bones in the face
- Blunt force trauma that can result in anything from a bump to a concussion to traumatic brain injury
- Intracranial hematoma – or a blood clot in or around the brain
- Intracranial bleed, or active bleeding in the brain
Concerning symptoms of head injuries
Some symptoms of head injuries are obvious – bumps, bruises, and bleeding are obvious signs of injury. However, symptoms of a severe head injury can often look like something else and can be delayed. Symptoms can range from cognitive ability, to mood, to stomach issues. If someone has experienced a head injury and is experiencing any of the below symptoms, they may have a more serious head injury:
- Inability to focus on things
- Dilated or unequal pupils
- Difficulty understanding or problems with language
- Memory loss
- Mood change and abnormal laughing, crying, or aggression
- Loss of muscle control or stiff muscles
When should you take someone with a head injury to the emergency room?
Head injuries are not always severe enough to require medical treatment and can be treated at home with compression (for bleeding), ice (for bumps and bruising), and rest. However, some head injuries can be very severe, even if there is no visible evidence of the injury. Someone who has experienced a head injury and is experiencing ANY of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Loss of consciousness
- Headache that persists or increases in severity or a stiff neck
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Loss of memory, like inability to recall the events that led up to the injury
- Difficulty speaking clearly or walking
- Weakness on one side or in one area of the body
- Changes in behavior, especially irritability
- Seizures or convulsions
- Unequal pupils or difference in pupil dilation
- Deep cut to the scalp, open wound in the head, object penetrating the head, or profuse bleeding
- Fluid of any kind or color draining from the ears or nose
Are there any symptoms of head injuries in children?
Sometimes children react differently to injuries, or are not capable of communicating or fully explaining their injuries and symptoms. The symptoms above may apply, but you may need to seek medical attention if a child who received a head injury does not want or refuses to eat, or if an infant has a bulging soft spot on their head.
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