How do you know if a head injury is serious?
You should contact your doctor if you experience anything worse than a light bump on the head. If you remain alert, able to respond, can move normally, and aren’t displaying symptoms of brain trauma than your injury is likely not serious.
However, a severe enough blow to the head may cause bleeding in or around the brain which could lead to significant brain damage if not treated quickly.
If you or someone else experiences any of the following symptoms after receiving an injury to the head than the damage is likely serious and you should contact emergency medical services immediately. These include:
- Sudden mood changes, such as irritability
- Persistent or worsening headache
- Memory loss
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What are the symptoms of brain damage?
Brain damage is no laughing matter which is why you should treat any head injury with the utmost seriousness. Any form of traumatic brain injury can have a wide range of psychological and physical effects. Some symptoms of brain damage occur right away while others may take days or weeks before they manifest.
Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
- A feeling of being disoriented or dazed
- Slurring of speech
- Ringing in the ears
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Blurred vision
- Changes in how you perceive smell
Cognitive or mental symptoms
- Mood swings
- Memory problems
- An inability to concentrate
Symptoms of moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries
- Seizures or convulsions
- Persistent or worsening headaches
- Repeated instances of vomiting or nausea
- Loss of consciousness for minutes to hours
- An inability to wake yourself up from sleep
- Dilation of one or both of the pupils
- Clear fluids draining from the ears or nose
- Loss of coordination
Cognitive or mental symptoms
- Slurred speed
- Utter confusion
- Unusual behavior
Signs of brain damage in children
Infants and small children may not have the ability to communicate the fact they may be experiencing a headache, confusion, or other symptoms associated with brain damage. If your child receives a head injury keep on the lookout for the following:
- Sad or depressed mood
- Change in eating or nursing habits
- Loss in activities
- Change in sleeping habits
- An inability to be consoled when upset
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What are the different types of brain injuries?
There are various types of brain injuries. These include:
A hemorrhage is any form of uncontrolled bleeding. Hemorrhages can occur within your brain tissue, called intracerebral hemorrhage, or in the space surrounding your brain called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Intracerebral hemorrhages can cause a pressure buildup in the brain while subarachnoid hemorrhages can lead to vomiting and headaches.
A concussion can occur when an individual impacts their head to the point where they sustain a brain injury. In many cases the effects of a concussion are temporary. However, repeated concussions can lead to permanent damage.
Most of the bones in the human body are supported by bone marrow. With that being said the skull does not have bone marrow. As a result, the skull is very strong and difficult to fracture or penetrate — perfect for protecting the brain. The downside is that if the skull is fractured in any capacity, the brain is that much more likely to sustain damage.
Any type of brain injury can cause an edema or swelling. Typically, swelling is a common reaction to an injury anywhere on the body. However, when this takes place in the brain, it can be dangerous because the skull can’t stretch to accommodate the swelling. Eventually the brain may swell to the point where it presses against the skull which can lead to pressure and possible complications such as nausea, loss of coordination or much worse.
When should you go to the doctor for a head injury?
If you have symptoms of a severe head injury don’t delay — see a doctor right away. If the situation is serious enough, contact emergency services so you can receive immediate medical attention. Emergency medical personnel are trained to move patients without causing additional damage. If you have symptoms after one or two days after the injury than you should visit your doctor immediately.
How long after hitting your head can you sleep?
It’s a common belief that once a person has hit their head, they should not be allowed to go to sleep. However, this theory only holds true for those who are experiencing symptoms of brain trauma (i.e., loss of coordination, dilated pupils, etc.). A slight bump on the head will typically go away with sufficient rest.
Featured Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Chris McCann