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What Should You Do If a Loved One Sustains a Head Injury?

 
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Head injuries, in which a person sustains trauma that damages the skull or ]]>brain]]>, is one of the leading causes of death and disability in adults, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center. A ]]>head injury]]> can be closed (the skull does not break from the trauma) or open (the skull is fractured due to the trauma). Several ]]>types of head injuries]]> exist: concussions, contusions, skull fractures, scalp wounds and hematoma. With a concussion, the brain is shaken, while with a contusion, the brain is bruised. If a person develops a hematoma from a head injury, she has a blood clot in the brain, such as underneath the skull (epidural hematoma), underneath the skull and dura (subdural hematoma), or within the brain tissue (intracerebral hematoma).

So what should you do if a loved one sustains a head injury? Look for signs that require medical attention. MedlinePlus noted that you should call 911 if you see that the patient has vomited more than once, begins to behave abnormally, complains of a stiff neck or a severe headache, becomes abnormally drowsy, or loses consciousness. Even if the patient only loses consciousness briefly, medical attention needs to be sought. Other signs to look for include seizures, abnormal breathing, paralysis, unequal pupil size, and a clear fluid or bleeding from the patient's mouth, ear or nose.

There are specific things you should not do if a loved one has sustained a head injury. This includes not picking up a child who has fallen that you suspect has a severe head injury, shaking the person, removing the object in the wound, washing the wound if it is either bleeding a lot or is deep, or taking off the helmet of a person that you suspect has a severe head injury. Only move a person who has sustains a head injury if it is absolutely necessary. KidsHealth from Nemours warned that you should not put direct pressure on a wound if you suspect that her skull has been fractured. If you have sustained a serious head injury, do not consume alcohol within 48 hours. If the patient is unconscious and is either having a seizure or is vomiting, turn her on her side: KidsHealth from Nemours pointed out that by keeping the patient's head and neck straight, this prevents choking.

After calling 911, check to see if the person is breathing. If not, CPR is needed. MedlinePlus noted that the next step if the patient is breathing, has a regular heart rate but is not conscious, is to treat the person as if she has a spinal injury: this means stabilizing the head and neck “by placing your hands on both sides of the person's head, keeping the head in line with the spine and preventing movement.” The ]]>type of treatment]]> the patient will receive depends on how severe the injury is. If the head injury is mild, specific treatment may not be needed, but watch for any signs of worsening over the next 24 hours. If you have any questions about how to care for a person who has sustained a head injury, seek help from a medical professional.

References

The Ohio State University Medical Center: Head Injury
http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/nervous_system/injury/pages/index.aspx

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Head Injury
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000028.htm

KidsHealth from Nemours: Head Injuries
http://kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=107&cat_id=149&article_set=21651

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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