Things that go bump in the night

Despite our best efforts, kids still seem to manage to find ways to bump their heads. The vast majority of these injuries are not serious and cause no long-term effects but sometimes a knock to the head can be so serious that it damages the brain. When your child hits their head it can be difficult to tell whether they need to be taken to hospital or if they can safely stay at home with you. The team at My Emergency Doctor are here to help you to ensure your child receives the most appropriate care.


A head injury is any bump to the head resulting in a bruise, lump or cut. Head injuries can be mild, moderate or severe and while mild head injuries are generally safely observed at home, anything moderate or severe requires immediate medical attention. Before we discuss the management of mild head injuries it is important that you become familiar with the features of moderate to severe head injuries. If, after hitting their head, your child shows any of the below-mentioned features, or if you are concerned about your child, call an ambulance by dialling 000.


Signs of a moderate to severe head injury include:

• any loss of consciousness (‘passing out’)
• drowsiness
• confusion
• memory loss
• one or more seizures
• two or more vomits
• persistent or recurrent headache
• visual disturbance
• large cut, bruise or bump on the head (or any object stuck in their head)
• unequal pupils
• arm or leg weakness
• clear discharge from the nose or ears


If your child has not lost consciousness and is awake, interacting with you and behaving normally, they most likely have suffered a mild head injury. They may have vomited, but only once, and they may have a bruise or a cut where they bumped their head. Mild head injuries may be safely managed at home but as it can sometimes be tricky to tell the difference between a mild and a moderate head injury it is always a good idea to seek medical advice; that’s where My Emergency Doctor can help. Our Emergency Specialists will ask further details about the injury and about your child’s behaviour. If they deem that your child has had a moderate head injury they will recommend that you present to an Emergency Department but if they determine that your child has had a mild head injury they will recommend a period of observation at home (saving you a trip to hospital). You will receive clear instructions on what to look out for over the following days to weeks as your child recovers from the injury and returns to normal activities.


John Greenfield