Head Injury-Concussion :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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Head Injury-Concussion

Your child has been seen at Nationwide Children’s Hospital because of a head injury. At this time, we do not think it is necessary to admit him or her to the hospital. However, you will need to watch him closely for the next 24 to 48 hours. If you feel that you cannot do this, please tell your doctor or nurse before you leave.

What to Expect

Your child may:

  • Be sleepy. It is okay to let him sleep.
  • Be nauseated or vomit.
  • Have a mild to moderate headache. You may give ________mg of Tylenol® up to every 4 hours as needed for the pain.
  • Be more fussy, moody or irritable.
  • Have a shorter attention span and poor memory.
  • Feel dizzy from time to time.
  • Be sensitive to light.
  • Be sensitive to noise.

Depending on the degree of head injury, the symptoms may last minutes to weeks. Regardless of the degree of injury, it is important that your child have medical follow-up.

  • Tell the doctor if your child is having trouble doing things he was able to do before the head injury (including schoolwork).
  • Tell your child’s teachers that he has had a head injury, so teachers can allow for changes in behavior and ability to concentrate if needed.

Signs to Watch For

You will need to return to the Emergency Department or call your medical provider if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Repeated or projectile vomiting
  • A major change in behavior or personality (confused, impulsive, reckless, aggressive or abnormal behavior)
  • Child is hard to wake up or quickly falls back to sleep after waking
  • Complaints of worsening headaches that are not relieved with Tylenol
  • Bleeding or clear fluid from the nose or ears
  • Hearing problems
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Staggering or swaying while walking
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Eye changes (cross-eyed, droopy eyelids, trouble using eyes)
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Numbness or tingling in face, arms or legs
  • Loss of consciousness (child does not wake up when you touch and talk to him)
  • Your child does not "look right" to you or seems to be getting worse instead of better.


The severity of the head injury determines when your child may return to contact sports or rough play. He may not return to sports, rough play or activities that require balance (bike riding, swimming, tree climbing, etc.) until his doctor says it is okay. He also should not operate any motor vehicles, including ATVs, motorcycles, motor scooters, snowmobiles and cars, until the doctor says it is okay. A doctor, experienced in treating head injuries, should see your child. Your child should be symptom-free then participate in a gradual return to exercise before resuming contact activities.

To help symptoms improve, and prevent symptoms from worsening, do not let your child watch TV, play video games or spend time on the computer. Also, your child needs to avoid text messaging and listening to loud music or music through headphones.  Encourage your child to rest and eat a light diet.

Preventing Future Injuries

Passenger safety: Use proper child passenger restraints (car seat or booster seat) for age and size of child.

  • Sports safety: Wear a proper fitting helmet and protective gear when using a bike, skateboard, scooter, roller-skates, participating in a contact sport like football, etc.
  • Street safety: Children should be taught to play where it is safe and supervised. Most children can be taught to safely cross the street alone at about 10 years of age.
  • Home safety: Prevent falls, choking, poisoning, and burns. Check your home for possible dangers and use safety products (safety gates, cabinet locks, windows guards, smoke detectors, no walkers with wheels, etc.).

If you need a doctor for your child, call the Nationwide Children's Referral and Information Line at (614) 722-KIDS.

Head Injury-Concussion (PDF)

HH-I-252 4/05  Revised 11/11 Copyright 2005-2011, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000