This is a guide to keep your child safe and help them recover from their head injury. Watch your child closely over the next few days. If you notice that your child is showing any of the symptoms listed in the Red or Amber categories please follow the relevant advice.

Red category

Following a bang to the head children may experience a few problems but rarely will they be serious. If you notice that your child is showing any of the symptoms listed below you must telephone 999 or go to the nearest Emergency Department straight away.

If your child:

  • is sleepy and you cannot wake them
  • is confused (not knowing where they are, getting things muddled up)
  • has a fit –making uncontrolled jerky movements
  • complains of eye sight problems
  • has difficulty speaking or understanding what you are saying • has weakness in their arms and legs or are losing their balance
  • has had clear or bloody fluid dribbling from their nose, ears or both since the injury
  • is continually vomiting
  • in babies, a different tone of crying –usually high pitched cry

Amber category

If your child has any of the symptoms below, we suggest you seek advice from your GP or phone NHS 111 today.

If you child is showing 2 symptoms from the list below then please treat as Red category:

  • has a continuous or worsening headache (not relieved by pain relief such as paracetamol)
  • has had 3 or more separate bouts of vomiting within 12 hours (there must be a gap of 30 minutes for it to be a different bout)
  • has continued irrational or unusual behaviour

Green category

Listed below are the common symptoms of a minor head injury and do not usually need any treatment.

Your child:

  • is alert and interacts with you
  • has a mild headache, dizziness or blurred vision (these symptoms may be worse when reading or watching television)
  • is nauseous but not vomiting

What is a minor head injury in a child?

Minor head injuries are common in active and exploring children, because they also have little sense of danger, poor balance and larger heads. These injuries may not result in loss of consciousness; your child will remain alert and able to communicate fully.

The advice below will help your child to recover and be more comfortable:

  • Give regular pain relief such as paracetamol
  • Avoid giving anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen
  • Observe that your child is behaving normally and that they respond to you as usual
  • Encourage your child to drink, start with small sips of water. Your child may feel sick and be reluctant to eat, so small regular snacks such as toast may help
  • Your child will need their usual sleep routine and for the first couple of nights you should check on them regularly. They should respond normally to your touch and their breathing should sound normal
  • At first your child may have more sleep during the day but you should wake them every hour
  • As the child recovers make sure that they avoid strenuous activity for the next 2 to 3 days or until their symptoms have settled.
  • Avoid contact sport (such as rugby or football) for at least 3 weeks
  • Allow your child to return to school when you feel that they have recovered

You know your child best. If you are concerned about them, you should seek further advice from your GP or NHS 111

Printable version of this page

Caring for a child with a head injury GHPI0842 Department: Paediatrics Review due: February 2025 PDF, 184.2 KB, 3 pages
Reference number GHPI0842_02_22
Department Paediatrics
Review due February 2025
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