Learn first aid for someone who has a head injury
A blow to the head may result in someone having pain or a headache. There may be a bump on their head and they may look pale.
1. Ask them to rest and apply something cold to the injury – for example, frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel.
Applying something cold to the injury for up to 20 minutes will reduce external swelling and pain. When a person has a blow to the head, their brain can be shaken inside the skull as well. This may cause a more serious head injury which may make them feel sick or drowsy.
2. Call 999 if they become drowsy, repeatedly vomit or their condition gets worse.
This could be a sign of a serious injury to the head. If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.
3. Make sure someone responsible is able to look after them
If the injury has happened when playing sports, they must not return to sport until they have been seen by a medical professional.
Some people should always seek medical advice after a head injury because they are at greater risk. See the FAQ’s for more detail.
Watch how to help someone who has a head injury (1 minute 47 seconds)
Common questions about first aid for someone who has a head injury
What can I apply to the injury to reduce swelling and pain?
You could wrap a towel or clothing around frozen vegetables or ice and apply it to the injury.
Never place ice directly on the skin, as it’s too cold.
What is concussion?
Concussion happens when the brain is shaken inside the skull because of a blow to the head.
A person with concussion may be unresponsive for a few seconds to a few minutes. Most people make a full recovery from concussion, but occasionally it becomes more serious.
Seek medical help if you think they have concussion.
What are the signs and symptoms of concussion?
A person may have concussion if they:
- are temporarily unresponsive
- are dizzy
- have a headache
- are confused
- feel sick
- have blurred vision
- loss of memory of what happened immediately before or during the head injury
Should I watch a person who has a head injury to see if they have concussion?
Yes, you should watch anyone who has had a head injury for the signs of concussion. Sometimes you may not see the signs immediately. Call 999 if you suspect they have concussion.
How do I know whether to call 999 after a head injury?
Call 999 if:
- They become less responsive or unresponsive
- They have numbness or weakness in any part of their body
- They have clear fluid or blood coming from their ears or nose
- They suffer a seizure
- They have been in a serious accident or had a severe blow to the head
They should also seek medical advice if:
- They are over 65
- They have had a previous brain injury
- They are taking medicines to thin their blood
- They have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs
- There is no one to look after them
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You should also seek medical advice if you are unsure how bad the injury is but think it could be serious.
What if the person becomes unresponsive as a result of a head injury?
What should I do if the head injury is bleeding heavily?
Apply pressure to the wound to stop or slow down the flow of blood and call 999.
Find out more about how to help someone who is bleeding heavily.
Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for someone who has a head injury.