Increased Intracranial Pressure

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Increased intracranial (in-tra-CRANE-ee-al) pressure (ICP) means greater than normal pressure on the brain. It results from a greater volume of fluid or swelling of the brain.

Signs of Increased ICP

Watch for one or more of these signs in your child:

Increased Intracranial Pressure

  • Change in your child's behavior such as extreme irritability (child is cranky, cannot be consoled or comforted)
  • Increased sleepiness (does not act as usual when you offer a favorite toy, or is difficult to wake up)
  • Shrill or high-pitched cry
  • Nausea (child feels like throwing up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Complaint of a headache or stiff neck when waking up
  • Complaint of nausea or throwing up in the morning
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Weakness of one side of the body
  • Trouble walking or uncoordinated movement (staggering or swaying)
  • Eye changes (crossed eyes, droopy eyelids, blurred or double vision, trouble using eyes, unequal size of eye pupils, or continuous downward gaze)
  • Increased head size, if your child is younger than 18 months
  • Full or tight fontanel (soft spot), if your child is younger than 18 months
  • Loss of consciousness (does not awaken when you touch and talk to him)
  • Child just does not "look right" to you

When to Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you notice any signs of increased intracranial pressure or if you have any questions or concerns. Your child may not have all of the signs and symptoms.

When to Get Emergency Help

Call 911 if your child:

  • Loses consciousness
  • Has convulsions (seizures) lasting longer than 5 minutes.


You may give your child his normal foods unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Follow-Up Appointment

If you have not been given an appointment, call the doctor's office. It is very important to keep all appointments.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor or nurse.

Increased Intracranial Pressure (PDF)

HH-I-35 6/85, Revised 1/15 Copyright 1985, Nationwide Children’s Hospital