Head Injuries - When to Visit the ER

Most of the time, a small bump on the head is nothing to worry about. But that doesn’t mean a parent, spouse or other family member shouldn’t keep an eye on the person with the headache.

“Head injuries can be serious, even though on the outside there may not be much visible evidence of an injury,” says Charles Emerman, MD, chair of MetroHealth’s Emergency Department. “And symptoms of a serious injury may not appear immediately.”

Dr. Emerman says patients who’ve suffered a head injury should visit the Emergency Department immediately if they:

  • Lost consciousness or became confused/disoriented after they were injured.
  • Suffered the injury at a high speed (car or bike accident, a steep fall, etc.)
  • Are vomiting or feel nauseated.
  • Have trouble balancing.
  • Can’t remember things about the injury.
  • Have a seizure.
  • Begin bleeding.

In addition, in the hours and days after a head injury, a patient needs to visit the Emergency Department as soon as possible if they:

  • Have a headache that won’t go away.
  • Behave unusually, experience mood swings or have trouble concentrating.
  • Slur their speech or have problems reading or writing.
  • Feel numbness, dizziness or weakness.
  • Have difficulty falling asleep or waking up.
  • Notice changes in their eyesight or have trouble moving their eyes.
  • Notice a discharge of fluid from their nose or ears.

“If there’s ever a doubt, go to the emergency department,” advises Dr. Emerman. “A trip to the hospital can help ease your mind and avoid complications later on.”