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Bump on the head: When is it a serious head injury?

Answer Section

Probably not. Head trauma from play or sports is a common concern for parents, but rarely does a bump on the head result in serious injury.

The forehead and scalp have a large blood supply. Injury to these areas often results in bleeding under the skin. When the bleeding is in just one area, it causes bruising and swelling, known as a hematoma. Keep in mind that even a minor head bump can cause a large swelling.

The speed, momentum and size of the children involved, such as teenagers versus young children, can increase the possibility of a serious injury. The forces involved, such as impact with a concrete floor or hard surface, also can raise the risk of a serious injury.

When to see a doctor

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call a member of your child's healthcare team for anything more than a light bump on your child's head.

If your child remains alert, moves as usual and responds to you, the injury is probably mild. A mild injury usually doesn't need further testing.

Occasionally, a blow to the head may be bad enough to cause bleeding in or around the brain. This type of bleeding can cause an intracranial hematoma, a serious condition that puts pressure on the brain.

See a healthcare professional within 1 to 2 days of a head injury with ongoing symptoms, even if emergency care isn't required.

Seek emergency medical attention if your child experiences:

  • Loss of consciousness, confusion or disorientation after a head injury.

Also seek emergency attention if your child has the following symptoms after a head injury, which could signal a concussion:

  • A headache that is getting worse.
  • Trouble with balance.
  • Vomiting.
  • Blood or clear fluid coming from the nose or ears.
  • Memory loss or confusion.
  • Mood changes, such as being irritable.

Content Last Updated: 24-Apr-2024
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