When to Go to the Hospital


People who've just had their brains jostled may be in no condition to decide if they need medical care. And the people around them may not know that hitting your head can be dangerous even if you don't lose consciousness. How do you know when you should go to the hospital after having "your bell rung"?


Going to the hospital after a head injury can mean the difference between life and death. But how do you know when to go? This can seem like a difficult decision, but let me sum up the answer for you: when in doubt, go to the hospital. Not later. Not tomorrow. Now!

Here's why.

The hospital is the only place that has a CAT scanner that can "look" inside your head and determine if there is any bleeding in your brain. Bleeding in the brain can be life-threatening when there is enough blood in the right spot to press down on the brain and squeeze it. These dangerous forms of bleeding are called epidural and subdural hematomas. Because the brain is trapped inside the skull, slow bleeding can force important parts of the brain against the inside of the skull and through the small hole in the base of the skull called the foramen magnum. These important brain areas, which control breathing and heart rate, stop working when they get squeezed and this is what results in death. With a CAT scan, epidural and subdural hematomas are easily diagnosed. The treatment requires surgery to remove the blood clot. The quicker the surgery, the better the chances for a good outcome.

So, how do you know when to go to the hospital? The decision is easy if you're the one making it for someone else and that person is not responding to you or looks asleep. This is called coma. The risk of a subdural or epidural hematoma in comatose head injured patients is high and you should summon an ambulance immediately!

But what if the head injury doesn't cause a coma? What if the head injury just causes a brief loss of consciousness, brief period of amnesia, or a sensation of feeling dazed? A person who has such an injury — termed concussion or mild traumatic brain injury — can look, and even feel, just fine. The problem is, even though the person looks good on the outside, inside the skull there is a small chance that slow bleeding is taking place. After a concussion, the chances of this happening are not large — about 1 in 1000 — but the only way to diagnose it is with that hospital-based CAT scan.

Here are the symptoms of a concussion that should prompt an immediate trip to the hospital or emergency department.

  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.

One word of caution: because any brain injury — even a concussion — has the potential to injure the brain, the brain-injured patient may lack the judgment to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to go to the hospital. Family and friends can be instrumental in helping the patient chose a course of action that is best for him or her. And when in doubt, go to the hospital!

When in doubt, go to the hospital!


Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Posted on BrainLine April 8, 2009. Reviewed March 28, 2019.

Comments (483)

I have hit my head twice today, the first one is when I have hit it on the pool floor, I slipped of my lilo, (lol), then the second one is when I came into my hotel room and smacked my temple quite hard on the door, my eyes go a bit blurry at times and I feel a bit sick, I also have anxiety so I could just be thinking about it to much.The first incident happened about 3/4 hours ago and the second one happened 30 odd minutes ago, what should I do? I’m a 12 y/o boy btw

YES! Always tell your parents what you are feeling and go to the hospital if you have ANY dizziness, feeling sick, or headache, especially all those together. And if you have a sudden severe (really bad) headache, then GO TO THE HOSPITAL right away.

I was running across my room when I slipped on water and fell backwards and hit the floor so hard it was heard all over the house. It hurt for a bit but then I couldn’t press the back of my head because it would hurt I don’t have any headaches or dizziness. Should I go to the doctor please answer quickly. Oh and the slightest spin makes me very very dizzy

Yes, yes...and YES!!
Always have a head injury checked out, if you experience any symptoms (headache, pain, dizziness, nausea feeling sick, slurred speech, can't think straight, unusual symptoms or behavior in general.....these are your body saying something is wrong).

I am a 15 y/o boy and i was walking the trussles with my little sister and a train had came so i was running i tripped and fell and smacked my head and i didnt loose consciousness but ever since then i have been feeling like in a daze off and on but when i went to the hospital they cleaned the blood put 4 needles in my head to numb my head but no CAT scan should i go in and check it out its almost a month and a half later and when they pulled the staples out and my mon said "i think my son should have a CAT scan done because hee seems very off" and the doctor said "no hes finehe just coming pff of a concussion" like no the concussion should be gone by now and i still feel dazed and like im not myself what do i do??

About 24 hours ago I fell asleep outside sitting in my lawn chair. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I remember is 'face planting' in the driveway! I only woke up when I hit the pavement. I bloodied both my knees and my nose. I busted my lip and hit my forehead really hard. Less than 24 hours later I look like I have been a couple rounds with Mike Tyson. My whole face hurts, but especially my forehead. I don't have a knot, but when I bend over the pressure causes my head to throb and I have a terrible headache. What should I do. I am a 55 year old woman.


I fell and hit the back of my hear on a concrete floor back in 1993 i found out that now i have arthritis in my facet joints also i suffered bad head aches also mental health problems back then

I went on a roller coaster on Saturday and I hit my neck, the back of my head and shoulders several times and that day the pain lasted around two hours since yesterday it came back and it is so bad I can’t sleep and it hurts to move my head at all. When I get up I feel dizzy and my legs feel weak to the point where I am almost falling. The pain gets worse with loud noises and every time I go outside. I’m not sure if I should go see a doctor or if it will just go away on it’s own.

I hope someone can ease our worry, because honestly hospitals are germ infested....my 2.5 yo granddaughter suffered concussion after climbing out of crib in middle of night, 8 days ago. Pediatrician blah.blahed off...she was/is stuttering and I told mama to follow gut. She has left temporal damage and scheduled for speech therapy. Today, 8 days later, she has began to act differently and is running 101.9 temp. A bath has dropped it some, yet she isn't exactly able to communicate how she feels. She is a twin and they have not been in daycare for 6 weeks. No teething signs. Mama and I are extremely neurotic. Should we wait out or take back to cesspool of more viruses?

Take her it sounds concerning

When I was little I fell off a swing backwards and hit my head I was out nearly an hour we didn’t have insurance or money so my mom just watched me. Cat scans hadn’t been invented yet. So with that said I ended up with epilepsy around age 16 not sure if that caused it for sure but it could have. Best wishes to the baby and hope all is well

I smacked my head on the edge of my metal bunk bed really hard, I have a bump and a red spot but I feel fine. I can’t tell if I have a concussion because I hit myself because I was dizzy beforehand but I don’t have any of the other symptoms. I’ve had a concussion before and I don’t feel like I did then. Should I go to the doctor? I haven’t gone because usually the doctors just do a quick superficial look and ask some questions then just send me home like nothing happened and it’s kinda too expensive to just go.

8'9'2019- I was walking out of bedroom, my dog crossed in front of me, I fell into the chair then into the wall and hit the left side of my head. I stayed on all fours for a few moments, asking the Lord to help me. I didnt want to get up and be dizzy. Later that morning I have head aches and neck hurts, went to chiropractor, he cracked my neck. Head ache had let-up. Saturday morning, headache is back. Shall I go in and be checked?

I hit my head and fell out. Went to urgent care . They said I had a concussion . Then a day later I fell and hit my head bad in the tub and I can’t remember how I fell in the tub. I have a big bump on my head it’s now about a week later and it still hurts . The bump is still there . What should I do ?I also forgot to mention I had neck surgery 5 years ago with 18 screws .

My 21 month old granddaughter hit her forehead pretty hard has a big lump it’s her bedtime now they live in NY I’m not near them and I’m concerned if she goes to sleep or has swelling?? Stuff that can’t be seen. I know little one get plenty of lump & bumps maybe you can guid parents what they should do. Thank you

Today I was riding my bike down a hill and lost control of it and hit my head on asphalt and there is nothing but a little knot on it....and it only hurts where the knot is but, my balance fills iffy

I was helping pack up some heavy stage equipment tonight and while someone was lifting a very heavy speaker it toppled and fell directly onto the top of my head. It only hurt for a little bit, and I mostly felt it in my teeth, but the problem is that I can't tell if I've got a concussion or not. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and so basically I already have pretty bad fatigue and cognitive difficulties, fogginess and such. I have a little bit of pressure where my head was hit, and I now have a headache, are there any other telling symptoms of concussions I could check, since the fatigue and fogginess are already there? I need to know if I should bother going to the hospital.

Two days ago the back of my head was been hitted to the floor.at first,I just feel pain because of the smash but a day later it become worse.when I wake up from the bed I can't lift up my head by itself.As the result I have to use my hands to support my head to lift it up.It is also so painful when I move my neck.just move it a little brings a great pain to my neck especially the back part.i also feel dizzy sometimes.even chewing food,yawning or talking makes my neck felt so pain.it has been 2 days now that I feel pain at my neck.does it mean I had a brain injury or something?

Please, I hope you have been to Accident Emergency Jo pital by now? I have no medical background but you may have at least damaged your neck. You must be assessed by medics ASAP xx

Im wondering if you went to the hospital yet and howd things go? I fell off my motor scooter and hit my head so hard that the tips of my fingers went numb and later on when i woke up from my nap my head was so heavy i had to support it with my hands too. I was 12 when that happend im 30 now and my necks pops, crunches and hurts all the time. I got my 1st MRI today. So im wondering how everything went with you.

Please respond, I need to know. I
was at work. I was throwing trash away and i was holding up the lid, and it got caught on bags on the other side and it fell and hit my head. Never loss consciousness, I do have a bruise, bump and a cut. Its been hurting bad for almost24 hrs. It is on my forehead. What is normal and when do I worry?

Go to the E.R. to be safe

I have had several headaches over the past month. I now find I have a few small lumps (about the size of a pea) on left hand side very near the top of the head where your skull leaves a small hole/joins. It is also very painful to the touch on left hand side of my head. Do I need to go to hospital or can it wait until Monday?

I about 20 mins ago hit the right top side of my head by accident on my car door and or the part right where I opened the door , I’m a delivery driver and just took the food to the door and when I returned to my car is when I hit my head , I have done the same thing before in the past. Lol Anyhoo , it hurt but not bad enough to cry or anything just kind of hurts not that bad . Should I get it checked out or am I ok? I drove home it was my last delivery. Haven’t vomited, blacked out, no blood where I hit it not coming from anywhere on my body.

A 3 and 1/2 year old had two hard hits on head in a week heard crack as of yet today almost 12 hours since last trauma no symptoms other than hard bump ice applied 3 times what are chances for internal cran
ial bleed?

Why would a 3 1/2 year old have 2 head trauma in one week? Of course you take them directly to the E.R. could have a concussion

I was playing at the park with my kiddos and I was climbing up the side of the playground set and once I reached the top I stood up and as soon as I did I hit the top of my head on a horizontal metal poll that was above my head that I did not notice when climbing. It about knocked me out due to how quickly I stood up. Should I go to the ER? The top of my head feels hot and there is a lump but that's the extent of my injuries so far.

I was playing kabadi then suddenly wen i went for my rider turn tue opponent girl pushed me to the ground n i cud hear the hit on ground... After tat i am now having mild pain on the back of my head after 8 hrs n a small sprain on my neck....... Shud i go to meet the doc???

I was bent over picking up rocks and throwing them behind me up on a bank and one came back down and hit me in the head.I have a bruise on my head and it is tender to touch the side of my head .I still have a little bit of a headache.What should I do?

I had the front of my head against the ground several times yesterday and many hours later I was nauseous dizzy extremely tired could not move very much. Eventually made my way to a bed and slept off and on all night and often on all day I still can’t really walk without feeling very shaky and like I’m gonna fall over if I move too quickly Or turn my head.
My pupils are the same size they dilate fine I don’t think I’ve lost consciousness or had memory lapses I just have a bit of a headache and a lack of balance and I feel Spinny. Is it A necessity for me to get checked out?

i had just hit my head today very hard on my bed , i get very dizzy and everything is slowed down and it’s hard to stand or walk straight . should i go to the hospital ?

Dog ran and his lease caught my legs, threw me up, slammed hard on my back and then my head. Very sore but after 12 hours feeling nauseous. Should I worry?

Hi. If some one could help me. About three years ago my sister was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia She. All ways in pain. So the dr put her on pain meds. But. There. Days. She. Be. Talking whit me. One hour should be fine and the next minute She’ll be mumbling I know. She not over doing pain med. she all ways. Tired And sometimes wants to. Pass out She could be talk. To me and All of a sudden fall sleep But. She is so scard. And dr. Donor know. What going on. Whit her. She went to several doctors But I don’t think not one of them have that a CAT scan on her brain I am worried something bad is going to happen to my sister please help

I was playing knocker ball and hit someone head on full force and have knot on the top of my head I wasn’t feeling good a first but I feel good now I took some medicine but my head sore on one side where the knot is do I go the hospital?

I hit the back my head twice in Nov/Dec of 2018. Once on skates on my wood floor, I hot the back of my head hard and went straight to the fire station to be examined. Not long after, I slipped on the ice outside on a sloped driveway and landed full force on the back of my head. I went to a walk-in clinic when I hit the wood floor and they said I had a mild concussion. No CT scan or Xrays were done. I told my primary doctor as well. I did not seek medical attention the second time but it was a hard hit, scary. My head was tender for several months but I didn’t lose consciousness either time. Now I’m seeing blood when I clean my ears. Should I seek additional medical attention?

Please, I hope by now you have seen someone and are okay.

My cat vomited and my partner stepped in it and fell
On our hard wood floor and hit his head. No bleeding nor did he lose conscious. He had a bump on the back of his head but says he does not need or want to go to hospital. I have ice in the bump. Anything else I should do?

Two days ago I was jogging with my dog and made a turn too fast and landed on my back, slamming my head full speed on the asphalt.
Since then, I feel fatigued, my neck and upper back hurt and my head feels heavy, it’s a concussion. I’m leaving for a month vacation in India this Friday. My guess is if I go to the hospital the doctor will tell me to rest. I am on chemotherapy as well. Should I still go to the ER ??? I hate going there for no valid reason while people are bleeding and needing urgent care. Thanks for your advice.

I got stuck/poked with a needle last Saturday on my temple area when getting a hair sew in. Now it’s a week later and I think I have a hematoma on my left side of my head it’s sore to the touch, should I go to the hospital is my brain possibly bleeding, or am I just freaking out ?

bumped my head today got a lil bump on my head no headaches or anything like that should i still go??

Hello, I was in a car accident and totalled my car and my head has been hurting a lot but I didn't think anything of it because it's normal from the whip lash although I did hit my head pretty hard on the head rest. I don't think I was unconscious after the accident but I got home and napped but I still felt some what concious and it swas hard to wake myself back up. Should I be concerned?

So this is kind of embarrassing, but Sat night I had too many drinks..I’m thinking I fell asleep on the toilet and fell forward hitting my head on the cupboard..I remember walking out of the bathroom down the hall and my head hurt, and thats when I noticed a pretty good sized bump on the top of my head..I went to bed and the next morning that area as well as my neck hurt..took some ibuprofen and was ok..last night I was in the shower and blew my nose and noticed a small blood clot..freaked me out and don’t know if it’s a coincidence because my allergies are bad right now or what..I don’t have a headache and haven’t taken ibuprofen since Sunday morning, and my neck feels a little bit better but I’m freaking out..yah it was stupid but now I’m freaking out because my anxiety is bad to begin with..I almost went to the er last night but just went to bed instead and besides the spots hurting where I hit, I don’t have a headache, haven’t vomited, and the slight dizziness I feel could be my allergies too because I’m always in a fog when they’re bad..I don’t know if I should just go and get checked or call my dr..I’m so embarrassed by it and don't really wanna explain the story to anyone, but I can’t get it off my mind and my anxiety is making me super uncomfortable..should I just go and see how things are or call my dr? Don’t really wanna explain it to her either but I don’t know what else to do..

I had a hit to the back of my head around the right side around the crown part back of the eye and to the side towards the ear. (a heavy crystal vase fell on me ) while I was moving a cabinet. I didn't think to move it at the time as I was only moving it very slightly. Anyway I was very lucky I remained conciousness and only grained a large lump and swelling where it knocked. I got this feeling of blood build up sensation (like I could feel it bleeding inside) It was sore for weeks and still remains sore at times. It was now three weeks ago and I never went to the hospital is it ever too late? I never went as my husband kept reassuring me that I was fine and the headaches and soreness and swelling is all normal I will be fine. Yet I felt that with bang that hard I should just check it but he kept insisting. So I never went, I still don't know as I don't want to one day not wake up because I didn't check it when I should have. Do you think I still should and is it too late?

my son had a car accident. bloody nose and swollen lip ...that was yesterday,'today he fell twice losing his balance and went to ER. they checked him over said no worry ,,,shouldn’t they have done more testing?

If I got into a fight and they hit my head by my temple several times should I go to the hospital? I been having headaches, pain on my temple, loss of appetite.


Definitely. Better to be safe than sorry

I hit my head hard enough to bust open above my eyebrow. That was two days ago now I'm not feeling quite myself. I'm super nauseated I have huge headaches and super sleepy. I went to a doctor but they said it'll go away in a couple days but but it just seems to be getting worse and I can't talk to my husband he just thinks it's stupid. What should I do?