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Children and head injuries

2-minute read

Almost all children bump or bang their heads now and then, and it can be difficult for parents to tell if the head injury is serious. Any knock to the head is considered a head injury.

Many head injuries are mild, and simply result in a small lump or bruise. You can manage mild head injuries at home, but if your child has received a moderate or severe injury to the head, they need to see a doctor.

This page provides information on head injuries in children, including what to look out for and when to get help.

Call an ambulance immediately if:

  • your child has had a head injury involving high speeds or heights greater than 1 metre, for example, car crashes, high-speed skateboard accidents or falling from playground equipment
  • your child loses consciousness
  • your child seems unwell and vomits more than once after hitting their head

Symptoms and what to do

Head injuries can vary from mild to severe and there are certain symptoms to look for. Mild head injuries might cause concussion. It’s always best to see a doctor if you’re unsure. Sometimes, a child might look normal, but behave abnormally. Sometimes symptoms can take 24 to 48 hours to appear.

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if your child has signs of a more serious head injury such as:

  • losing consciousness (passing out)
  • clear or blood-stained fluid coming from their nose or ears
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty waking or unusual drowsiness
  • weak, numb or tingling arms, legs or face
  • differently sized pupils
  • an object stuck in their head
  • a large bruise or bump or cut that won't stop bleeding
  • seeming confused or acting oddly
  • a loss of memory
  • vomiting more than once
  • persistent or recurrent headache
  • convulsions, fits or seizures
  • losing balance or feeling dizzy

See a doctor if your child shows signs of a milder head injury such as:

  • vomiting once
  • being less alert than usual
  • bruising or cuts to the head

Treatment and recovery

Recovering from even a mild head injury or concussion can take several weeks as the brain gradually heals itself. The most important treatment for a head injury is physical and mental rest. Some children experience cognitive fatigue, meaning that their brain gets tired from thinking more quickly than usual.

Your doctor will probably want your child to rest at home and avoid sports or activities that put them at risk of another injury. Talk to your doctor about when your child can return to school or childcare.

Most children with a mild head injury recover fully within a few weeks or months.

Further information

Here are some ways to prevent falls in your home. First aid skills are also useful.

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

Last reviewed: September 2020

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Need more information?

Minor Head Injury in Children

A mild head injury, also known as concussion, means that the brain has had a slight jolt and will need time to recover. Not all bumps to the head result in concussion.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Concussion and mild head injury | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is concussion? A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by sudden strong movement of the brain against the skull

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Concussion in children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

A concussion is a mild head injury. If your child has concussion, he’ll need a short rest. He can start returning to normal activities 24-48 hours later.

Read more on website

Children and Headache - Headache Australia

Headache is a frequent symptom in children, many not being seen by doctors. Studies have shown that prevalence increases from preschool to mid-adolescence.

Read more on Migraine and Headache Australia website

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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