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Children and head injuries

5-minute read

Key Facts

  • Any knock to the head is considered a head injury.
  • Head injuries can vary from mild to severe.
  • Symptoms can appear up to 3 days after the accident.
  • If you are concerned about your child after a head injury, get them checked at hospital.

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if your child:

  • has had a head injury involving high speeds, for example a car crash
  • has had a head injury involving a height greater than one metre, for example falling from playground equipment
  • loses consciousness
  • seems unwell and vomits more than once after hitting their head

Almost all young children will bump their head at some time. Mild to moderate head injuries are one of the most common reasons for children to be seen at hospital. Any knock to the head is considered a head injury.

This page gives information on head injuries in babies and young children (up to 5 years). It includes what to look for and when to get help. For information on head injuries in older children and adults, visit the healthdirect head injuries page.

Symptoms and what to do after a head injury

Head injuries can vary from mild to severe. Sometimes symptoms can take up to 3 days to appear.

You should take your child to hospital straight away if their head injury is from:

  • a motor vehicle accident
  • being hit by a car when walking or cycling
  • falling more than 1 metre before the age of 2 years
  • falling more than 1.5 metres after the age of 2 years
  • being struck by a high-impact object
Take your child to hospital if they have any of these signs within 3 days of the injury:
  • seizure (fit)
  • double vision
  • clumsiness
  • reduced level of consciousness
  • loss of consciousness
  • weakness and tingling in their arms or legs
  • vomiting (throwing up) more than once
  • severe headache
  • not acting normally
  • increased sleepiness, agitation, restlessness or combativeness

If your child only vomits once, they should be checked by your doctor.

If your child has a ground level fall or runs into an object they don’t usually need to go to hospital.

Treatment for head injuries and recovery

After a mild head injury your child will need plenty of rest for the first 1 to 2 days.

If they have a headache, you can give them paracetamol every 6 hours.

You don’t need to wake your child during the night unless a doctor has told you to do this.

If you have difficulty waking your child call triple zero (000) immediately.

After a concussion

Recovering from a concussion can take 4 weeks or more.

It is likely that your doctor will want your child to rest at home. They should also avoid activities that put them at risk of another injury.

Talk to your doctor about when your child can return to school or childcare.

Further information

First aid skills help you to know what to do when there is an emergency. You can find out more about first aid here.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2022

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Concussion in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

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