Head injury - all people aged 12 and over
You were seen in the Emergency Department, and we have diagnosed you as having a mild, moderate or severe head injury. We think that it is all right for you to leave hospital now and return home. You should have a responsible adult with you for the next 24 hours - at least. We have checked your symptoms and you seem to be recovering. When you get home, it is unlikely that you will have any further problems.
What should I look out for that may be of concern?
If any of the following symptoms occur (or return), we suggest you return to the Emergency Department as soon as possible:
- unconsciousness, or lack of full consciousness (for example, problems keeping your eyes open)
- any confusion (not knowing where you are, getting things muddled up)
- any drowsiness (feeling sleepy) that goes on for longer than 1 hour; when you would normally be wide awake
- difficulty waking up
- any problems understanding people speaking to you, or speaking yourself
- any loss of balance or problems walking
- any weakness in one or more arms or legs
- any problems with your eyesight
- a very painful headache that won’t go away despite pain relief
- any vomiting – getting sick, as in throwing up
- any fits (collapsing or passing out suddenly)
- clear fluid coming out of your ear or nose
- new bleeding from one or both ears
- new deafness in one or both ears
What symptoms should I not worry about?
You may experience some other symptoms over the next few days, which should disappear in the next 2 weeks. These include:
- a mild headache
- feeling sick (without vomiting)
- irritability or a bad temper
- problems concentrating or problems with your memory
- lack of appetite or problems sleeping
If you feel very concerned about any of these symptoms in the first few days after discharge, you should go and see your own doctor (your GP) to talk about them.
If these problems do not go away after 2 weeks, you should go and see your doctor (your GP). We would also recommend that you seek a doctor’s opinion about your ability to drive a car or motorbike.
What can I do to help my recovery?
If you follow this advice you should get better more quickly and it may help any symptoms you have to go away:
- do not stay at home alone for the first 24 hours after leaving hospital
- do make sure you stay within easy reach of a telephone and medical help
- do have plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations (this includes crowded places)
- do not take any alcohol or drugs
- do not take sleeping pills, sedatives or tranquillisers unless they are prescribed to you by a doctor
- do not play any contact sport (for example rugby or football) for at least 3 weeks without talking to your doctor first - you may need a phased return to sport
- do not return to your normal place of education (school, college, university) or to work until you feel you have completely recovered
- do not drive a car or motorbike, ride a bicycle, or operate machinery unless you feel you have completely recovered
- do not swim or take a bath alone until fully recovered
Will I have any long-term problems from my head injury?
Most patients recover quickly from their accident and experience no long-term problems.
However, some patients only develop problems after a few weeks or months.
If you start to feel that things are not quite right (for example memory problems, not feeling yourself, headaches) then please contact your doctor (GP) as soon as possible. They can make sure you are recovering properly and if required, arrange further follow up.
Where can I get more information about recovery from head injuries?
You can find further support and information on the charity Headway's website.
You can find an useful guide to returning to contact sport following head injury, on the English Rugby team's website.
Reviewed by Dr T Shaw in October 2022, next review in February 2024.
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