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 (772)

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.

Hey i had gotten up out of my gamer chair really fast after did that i got really light headed and blacked out. I hit my head on the door and a metal candle lid. When i regained conceness a few minutes after my whole body was tingling. Now i just get migrains, feel nausios, feel depressed, having a hard time sleeping, and feeling drowsy all the time. Should i go to the hospital or no??

I would man. Sounds scary

You should definitely go to the hospital asap

Yes felling like that isn’t normal any time your not your normal self go to the doctor you should know what’s normal and you and what’s not you.

Did you go to the hospital? What happened?

Yes these are signs you need to go ASAP

yes, most defiently i would have someone else drive you there. yeah you could have brain damage

Yes,pls u should go to the hospital and check out if every thing is fine.

Yeah go to the hospital

Yes. Absolutely go.

I know the article said to go to the hospital if there was any doubt but I just really want a second opinion right now because it's 9:30 PM where I live and I don't want to have to make my parents go out if they don't have to. At dance practice today, I was practicing a certain acrobatic trick and we didn't communicate well enough so I was dropped extremely hard on my left cheekbone and still very hard on my lower right side of the back of my head. Initially, I felt extremely dazed, my vision became dark and spotty in certain places, especially the edges, my head hurt on the location of impact (obviously), and I just wanted to close my eyes and not move. This went on for about five minutes and after this, I just felt out of it and a little dizzy, but I continued practicing (with a lower intensity of course) after my dance coach checked my pupils to make sure they were dilating properly. This happened at about 6 PM and I continued to feel better until now because I just feel very anxious and still out of it and I don't know what to do. I don't know if I'm just shaken up by what happened and now I'm overthinking it, but now I'm just scared and I need opinions. Please help me.

Yes go to the hospital. It doesn't matter what time it is the fact is you have persistent symptoms. And if you leave it you could end up being placed back in a position that makes it worse or you could potentially die in your sleep especially in the first 24 hours. It happens. You dont want that so go in even if it's only slightly affecting you. Better to be safe then sorry

I hope you went to the hospital and you are ok..I happened to read your comments on here about your head injury but just realized it was back in April so I'm hoping the outcome was good for you..

Should you always go to the hospital when you hit your head and have a lump and are just stressed and scared and just have a slight headache from nerves maybe

I hope you went to hospital and are okay

I hope you did go to the hospital if not go right now. Even if you are feeling better. Since you were dizzy and had vision disturbances after falling.

Never resume activity after a hit to the head that leaves you dazed. At that point you’re brain is basically weakened, and if it will be much more sensitive and vulnerable to getting shaken around from al the jumping and what not while cheerleading, possibly worsening the injury. If you’re still having symptoms, my number 1 advice is don’t hot your head again anytime soon. Avoid it at all cost. Like don’t even bump your head on the headboard when going to sleep. Nutritious food (fatty fish esp), limit screens in the evening and night so you can get to sleep at night, get morning sunlight (which will also
help you sleep at night), go for walks, etc.

On Sat. 4/7/18, I slipped on ice and fell backward, landed on my back and hit the back of my head really hard. I was a little disoriented at first, but just for a minute or so. I worked the rest of the day and had a Dr.s appt on Mon.4/9/18. My Dr. asked me if I vomited and if I had a headache. I said no, but I didn't mention that I have been sick to my stomach, but have also been going through a lot of stress. The Dr. said I had a hematoma and it would heal on its own. Since I'm sick to my stomach should I go to ER & get brain/skull scan? It smacked the concrete extremely hard, I couldn't believe that when I reached to the back of my head there was no blood. Should I be worried being its been 3 1/2 days now? I still haven't had a headache. Only sick to my stomach, but think...I was before this happened? My family Dr. is pretty smart, he has even given and read my stress test, which I was impressed with. So am I okay or should I get checked anyway? A little worried is all. Where I hit, there is blood under the skin and a little squishy, like I said, he said: "it was a hematoma and should heal on its own."

So did u get a CT

I got my fourth concussion about 5 weeks ago, my third in ten months. I was in two accidents last year four months apart, then this last one was at work. I've seen the workman's comp doctor and he has turned my care over to a neurologist, whom I can't get into until May. I've been symptomatic this entire time: constant headaches, ear ringing, vomiting, balance issues, blurred vision. I've fallen twice since the concussion, resulting in contusions on my head. The pain and vomiting were so bad last week I went to the ERer, and the doctor said I was wasting his time and he couldn't help me. He also said if I was there for painkillers, I needed to get out of his ER. I felt humiliated and depressed that no one can help me feel better. Was that doctor out of line and what do I do for some relief while I wait to see the neurologist?

Yes. The doctor was completely out of line. You should have asked to speak to a hospital administrator or the appropriate person over him. Report him to the proper authority and don’t back down. Given your symptoms you could have been/or are in serious condition. Seek a second opinion if u haven’t already. Gl.

Seriously, you need to get a 2nd opinion, that Dr needs striking off! I have been to A&E today with the same as you and the consultants did a thorough check and a CT scan too. I'm okay just concussion no bleeding in the brain but I now have to take time off work and rest up. Take paracetamol only and get plenty of rest and it could take a while to get better, if not better this time next week I am to go straight back up to A&E. I feel crap but confident of full recovery having been to A&E but wish I'd gone straight away which is what they told me I should have done. Good luck, I hope you get it sorted soon. If not then lodge one helluva a complaint and remember to the Doctor's name for the complaint. If you have to wait for the Neurologist then I suggest you take the time out to rest up and take paracetamol only whilst you do.

It's a little late; but, yes.. the doctor was out of line. If you ever deal with that again, you should retort that you're not here for the pain (though of course it's a concern) - you're here because you've had multiple head injuries and haven't been able to access proper care and accessment. You need a consult with the neurologist on call and to get any imaging they think you my need -- that your first injury hasn't improved & has directly caused additional head injuries & you need that to stop happening. Also, if you get shit on like that again, you can tell the nurse you need to speak to a social worker. They can advocate on your behalf. I hope things are better now.

The way he treated you wasn't nice, though I can't tell the manner of approach you did or how you explained your condition. But I'll advice you to see another medical practitioner. (I'm not a specialist though, just my opinion).

Hey there. That doctor seems way out of line. Brain injuries are very serious and considering you have persisting symptoms they should of done some scans to make sure everything was okay and rule out any bleeding in the brain. You can take panadol but don't take anything like ibuprofen. Also dont drink alcohol as it thins your blood

I recently rolled my car (3/22/18) and developed a large cranial hematoma. A CT scan was done and they released me. On 3/27, I started having a headache and the goose egg seems to be getting bigger. I don't want to be dramatic and run to the ER. . . . . Suggestions??

Have you put ice or something cold on it?


It is important you go. They won't think you are dramatic. They will think you are smart even if it turns out to be nothing. It doesn't hurt to go it could turn into something. You had a very big injury. Something more could have formed such as a head bleed that is deadly. Take my advice go now it can never hurt.

I went to close the tailgate of my car with full strength and hit the middle of my head. This happened Friday, I am still in pain and have headaches. Should I go to the ER? I have had two concussions before this so I'm pretty sure it is a slight concussion

Help, I was assembling a weight lifting chair and before even assembling anything, one of the legs tipped over and hit my head causing a small cut towards the front almost the side of my head. Bleeding stopped very soon and I never lost consciousness but I do feel a little bit dizzy and nauseous. The cut is not bleeding anymore but I'm worried. Should I go to the hospital.

Yes you should go to the hospital!

So i fainted and became unconscious for a min or so my friend was there he said i hit my head on the way fown but i just sat kind of crumbled after i woke up i felt sick to my stomach i stood up after i got my barrings and felt okay to walk i took 4 steps and fainted again ive never had this happen now ive felt tired and achey all over for the past 20 hours or so should i go to the er im really nervous

I really think you should!

Um... you all just need to go to the doctor. If you are even asking that question because you are not feeling “right” in any way after a blow to the head. Then yes, seek medical attention. Better to err on the side of caution...

I just fell of my bike today, messed my elbow up pretty bad. Anyways, I can't remember if I hit my head hard or not at all. There isn't a blemish on my skull. I did some research, and an online test, but I think i'm fine, and it's just the adrenaline. I don't feel "right" but im going to check in with the family after a bit. Just to see if it progressively gets worse. I heard that it can take upwards of 24 hours for symptoms to appear so i'm just a tad worried. But that's just the thing, if you fall, and can't see/feel an issue, how do you even know you hit your head in the first place? For all I know I only scraped my elbow badly. This is a very worrisome issue, but I heard the chances of having a concussion are about 1/1000. If you do suffer from memory loss, fatigue, drowsiness, etc. I'd personally get checked out.


PSS: After rereading this paragraph I don't sound like someone with a concussion. I'm probs just overreacting.

I hate it when people answer like that!! “Um all you need to do is go to the dr..”

I hate it when people answer like that!! “Um all you need to do is go to the dr..”

the answer was "you ALL need to go to the doctor". There are places to go that will take you with no insurance.

Sarcasm, ad nauseam... I'm with you Jen
There is nothing more precious than life.
Sad that the medical 'business' is beyond affordable to so many, leaving them wondering if they should seek help - when they know the really should, maybe even risking their life to avoid loosing their arm and leg to pay for, in most cases, their assurance.

When I was around 10 yrs old, I was repeatedly kicked in the back if the head around 12 times by a boy, I did tell the teacher and was very wobbly and vision was burred. I'm just wondering if this could of resulted in some sort of damage. I suffer with depression, and my moods have suffered for years. I suffer with memory loss. I can't remember things from when I was young. Would just like an opinion please

Also, I am very sorry that happened to you.

Amanda, you need to see a neurologist.

HI my daughter got hit by a car walking down the road 2 weeks ago. They said she had a contusion on outer left side and seen nothing else. But ever since then she has been very aggressive, crying, and having emotional issues. Could something else be going on that was maybe not seen during the emergency?

Fredia, you need to take her to a neurologist.

I hit the back of my head on a metal bed frame falling onto the bed from standing up 5 days ago, and immediately after it I don’t remember what happened, then I couldn’t move my head until the morning. Since then I’ve had a consistent headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, and confusion. I went to hospital 2 days ago and they just said to take panadol and nurofen daily and to come back if it doesn’t get better, or gets worse, or the dizziness gets worse or if my balance gets worse or if I get nauseous l, or anything else that could be related. Yesterday I noticed all new things coming up in addition to everything before. I’m very worried and think I should get a scan because I normally have a lot of pain in my body and stuff going on anyway that could be affecting it, and all my friends think I should go back, but my dad doesn’t seem that worried and is saying that it’s normal. What should I do?

Go to a hospital, they can do a CAT scan to look for bleeding in the brain. If in doubt go to the hospital.

I agree, that sounds serious.

These are signs of a concussion. Go back to the hospital.

I was playing ice hockey(still do) about a year ago. I got tripped up and flew about 5-6 feet across the ice while flying about 4 feet off the ground and went head first into the boards. The impact was on the top/back portion of my head(my back was facing the ice and I was going backwards into the boards). Upon impact my head snapped forward(whiplash) I blacked out and remember coming to laying face down on the ice holding my head and the red whistling. At that point I knew I was playing hockey but was a little confused what was going on in the game and knew I had blacked out(not the first time I’ve been knocked unconscious). I ended up sitting out for a little and then went back in to play(I know it was stupid and I was being stubborn). I’ve never gone to a doctor any time I’ve been concussed(yes I know it was a concussion and yes I know I’m stupid for not going). I believe my head has gotten a little messed up, as I forget things I’m talking about and I have developed a slight stutter at times. A perfect example is this post I’m writing right now, I honestly forgot the what I’m commenting on and just know it’s about hitting my head and getting concussions but other than that I don’t even know if I’m commenting on the same “theme” everyone else is. I just know i messed up by not going to a doctor, now I have a completely different injury to my throat/neck and will be seeing a doctor very soon and won’t make the same mistakes again.

You should go to the hospital ASAP before it gets worse. I hope your okay, this sounds scarey.

hi . Today I hit my head in the sport class . My friend had knocked it with the basket ball so hard . I am ok but I fell like my brain is moving , is it normal?