Minor head injury

This information from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains what to look out for if a child has a trip or fall and bumps their head. It assumes they have been given a check up at hospital and no problems were found.

What to expect when they get home

The child may:

  • have a mild headache

  • feel sick and not feel like eating

  • have difficulty concentrating

  • feel more tired than usual

This is normal, and does not need any treatment other than paracetamol, given according to the instructions on the bottle. The child can play as normal, although quiet play is best and television or computer games are best avoided. 

However, a head injury (even a minor one) can occasionally develop into something more serious. A close watch should be kept on the child until they are back to normal. They should not be left with an inexperienced carer. We advise the child avoids rough and tumble play or contact sports for at least three weeks. 

Signs that a head injury is becoming more serious include: 

  • Vomits more than once or twice.

  • A severe headache or one that is getting worse.

  • Drowsy or difficult to wake up.

  • Difficulty with seeing and/or balance.

  • A fit – making uncontrolled jerky or twitchy movements.

  • Watery or bloody oozing from their nose or ears.

  • Behaves differently to normal.

  • Is irritable.

  • In babies, has a higher pitched cry than usual. 

If they show any of these signs, the child should be taken to the local Accident and Emergency (A&E) department immediately and medical advice sought. 

Compiled by: 
The Outpatients department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date: 
April 2014