Head injuries - what to do

Remember that all knocks to the head are potentially dangerous. Most head injuries cause a degree of concussion. Given time and rest, the brain will heal with no serious consequence. Serious injuries can tear a blood vessel in the head causing bleeding into the brain or into the space around the brain. This causes pressure effects, which could damage the brain if not treated. Anyone who has been knocked out for any length of time (more than a couple of minutes), should go to the local A+E department, as it may be necessary for them to be observed overnight. This is even more important if they have been drinking as it can be easy to confuse the symptoms produced by a significant head injury with those of drunkenness. If only knocked out momentarily, or not at all, then it will be sufficient to rest, and observe for the next day. A sensible adult should be present and be prepared to wake the person through the night to ask a simple question such as their name and address. If they become confused, or difficult to rouse, get them to hospital. It is common to feel quite woozy and unwell, even after a fairly minor head injury. You may get headaches, feel unusually tired and find that your concentration is impaired. The duration of symptoms varies, but can be prolonged. Make sure that you rest, and avoid any unusual exertion. Try not to watch too much television or to read too much. You may find that alcohol aggravates your symptoms. If your symptoms are getting worse or you develop severe headache, visual disturbance, nausea and vomiting, or if you have a fit, weakness, or numbness of arms or legs, then you should seek medical advice immediately. Occasionally, the post-concussion symptoms last much longer, for more advice see http://www.headway.org.uk/

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This article published on
04 December 2005

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