How to Care for Your Child with a Head Injury or Concussion

This leaflet will provide you with information about head injury and concussion causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and home care advice.

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Head injury in children is common. Most head injuries are not serious

Head injuries are classified as:

  • Mild – this can be managed at home
  • Moderate and Severe injuries- your child needs to see a doctor

What are the common couses of head injury?

Head injuries are commonly caused by:

  • falls
  • motor vehicle accidents
  • a sports-related injury
  • physical abuse

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a term of a mild form of traumatic brain injury and is common in children during sports activities.

What are the symptoms of head injury or concussion?

  • Scalp swelling: this is common because the scalp has many small blood vessels that can bleed.
  • Loss of consciousness: usually just for a brief period of less than one minute
  • Headache: This may be in the form of irritability (bad temper) or other discomforts in children who are too young to speak.
  • Vomiting: Children who vomit after a head injury do not necessarily have a serious brain injury unless vomiting is repeated
  • Seizure: Not all children who have a seizure will have a serious head injury

Common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Mild confusion
  • Nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • sudden changes in  behavior
  • bothered by  bright light or loud noises
  • Disturbance of sleep pattern
  • Amnesia (temporary memory loss, not being able to remember events around the time of the injury)

How is a head injury or concussion diagnosed?

  • The doctor will ask a few questions about your child's health and examine your child to determine the seriousness of the injury.
  • The doctor will advise you if further investigations are required
  • Most children with concussion do not need x-rays, CT-scan or MRI
  • Even with a normal brain CT or MRI, your child can still have a concussion

How is a head injury or concussion treated?

  • Your child's doctor will decide the suitable treatment based on the clinical assessment, the seriousness of the injury and the outcome of the observation period.
  • Most of the time, a period of watching the child for 4-6 hours is all that is needed. If your child develops any symptoms of concerns during this period, then the doctor will decide about further testing and imaging.
  • Children are at very low risk of having serious brain injury if they remain well more than 12 hours after the head injury.

Home care advice

Most children with a minor head injury can be safely watched at home; here are a few things that you can do at home to help your child

  • A mild headache, dizziness, and nausea are common, especially during the first 48 hours after the injury.
  • Make sure your child is cared for by a responsible adult for at least 48 hours.

Pain relief medicine:

  • Your child may have a headache or soreness around the injured area. You can give your child:
    • Paracetamol (any brand) or Ibuprofen (any brand)   
    • Follow the instruction on the medicine package for the correct dose for your child
    • Do not give your child Aspirin as this can cause serious complications


  • If the child is nauseous or has vomited once, try offering clear liquids such as soft drinks, clear juice


  • Encourage your child to lie down or choose a quiet activity.
  • Your child can sleep. It is not dangerous to sleep after a minor head injury. Sleep is an important part of the brain’s recovery from a concussion and will help your child to feel better.
  • It is not usually necessary to wake your child from sleep after a minor head injury.
  • If your doctor recommends waking the child, he or she should be able to wake up and recognize his/ her surroundings and parent/caretaker
  • Avoid television, mobile phones, tablets, or computer games until your child is symptoms free.


If there is a skin wound:

  • Apply pressure to the bleeding area with a clean cloth do not put coffee or any other household material in the wound
  • Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes.


  • Swelling (a large lump or "goose egg") is also common after a head injury this is because the scalp is rich with blood supply.
  • To reduce the swelling, you can apply ice or a cold pack to the area for 20 minutes.
  • The swelling may take up to one week to completely disappear  

Return to play

  • A serious brain injury may occur if your child has a second head injury within a short time after the first injury.
  • Please confirm with your doctor if your child can return to active play or sports.
  • If your child had concussion, do not allow your child to return to exercise until their symptoms have been reevaluated by a healthcare professional

When to go to the Emergency Department?

You should go to the emergency department if your child:

  • Fell from a height taller than 1 to 1.5 meters
  • Is younger than six months old
  • Becomes more and more drowsy and/or difficult to wake up
  • Vomits more than twice or continue to vomit four to six hours after the injury
  • Has a seizure
  • Passes out
  • Has a really bad headache that is getting worse over time
  • Has trouble walking, talking, or seeing
  • Seems confused
  • Acts in a way that worries you
  • Has dizziness that does not go away or comes back repeatedly
  • Has blood or watery fluid coming out of the nose or ears
  • Has a cut that keeps bleeding after you put pressure on it for 10 minutes
  • Is weak or numb in any body part
  • Is very cranky and irritable or can't stop crying(younger children)
  • Has a wound that needs attention