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Head Injury (Adult)

You have a head injury. It does not appear serious at this time. But symptoms of a more serious problem, such as a mild brain injury (concussion) or bruising or bleeding in the brain, may appear later. For this reason, you or someone caring for you will need to watch for the symptoms listed below. Once you’re home, also be sure to follow any care instructions you’re given.

Home care

Watch for the following symptoms

Seek emergency medical care if you have any of these symptoms over the next hours to days: 

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to light or noise

  • Unusual sleepiness or grogginess

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Personality changes

  • Vision changes

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

  • Trouble walking or clumsiness

  • Loss of consciousness (even for a short time)

  • Inability to be awakened

  • Stiff neck

  • Weakness or numbness in any part of the body

  • Seizures

General care

  • If you were prescribed medicines for pain, use them as directed. Note: Don’t take other medicines for pain without talking to your provider first.

  • To help reduce swelling and pain, apply a cold source to the injured area for up to 20 minutes at a time. Do this as often as directed. Use a cold pack or bag of ice wrapped in a thin towel. Never apply a cold source directly to the skin.

  • If you have cuts or scrapes as a result of your head injury, care for them as directed.

  • For the next 24 hours (or longer, if instructed):

    • Don’t drink alcohol or use sedatives or other medicines that make you sleepy.

    • Don’t drive or operate machinery.

    • Don’t do anything strenuous, such as heavy lifting or straining.

    • Limit tasks that require concentration. This includes reading, using a smartphone or computer, watching TV, and playing video games.

    • Don’t return to sports or other activities that could result in another head injury.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as directed. If imaging tests were done, they will be reviewed by a doctor. You will be told the results and any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain doesn’t get better or worsens

  • New or increased swelling or bruising

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Increased redness, warmth, drainage, or bleeding from the injured area

  • Fluid drainage or bleeding from the nose or ears

  • Any depression or bony abnormality in the injured area

 

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