When to Go to the Hospital

Ask the Expert: 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 (819)

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.

I’m literally here for the exact same reason . . . I got so frustrated with myself last night that I lost it and started hitting the right side of my head. It hurt a little at the time but now the next day, I have a headache and that side of my head is sore to touch. I know it’s nothing and just stress worrying. That was so stupid lmao next time I’ll punch myself in the leg or stomach or something

I had a mental breakdown about a week ago and hit my forehead as hard as I could against the floor several times-idk how many times it was but definitely more than 5. I lost consciousness several times afterwards and since then I've been having random extreme dizziness and balance problems. Before I hit my head I was having severe migraine but afterwards they have completely disappeared, just having the dizziness worse than I've ever felt. When I lay on my right side I get even more dizziness. I don't have health insurance and I already have a hospital bill from 2 different hospitals from 2 days before...

So I am 45 and dealing with too much. I have gotten to the point where the only thing that makes me feel better is planning my suicide. About a month ago I lost it completely and started hitting myself on the right side of my head. Afterwards I felt better and now I so it almost every day. I can't stop because it's the only thing that makes me feel better. I don't know what to do. Im not sure I have the strength to fight this as I know that I don't have the strength to care.

I woke up last night to go to the bathroom and when I got out of bed and started to walk, I kept walking/falling to the right against the wall until I got to the bathroom. By that time I was not falling to the side any more. I had a mild headache afterwards. What could have caused this?

Hi! I was hoovering the stairs today. I was knelt down and leaning down and using the tube part of the hoover to do the stairs as they are carpeted. I had earphones in as well. Before I know it, the hoover has fallen down the stairs and landed on the back of my head. It hit me so hard I felt it in the front of my skull. It was a Henry hoover, which apparently weighs 6.6kg (according to Google). I have a headache and feel sick if I stand for too long. It is 10pm now and this happened at about 3pm. It still hurts. Should I go to the hospital? Or call 111? I feel fine other than my headache, eyes hurting, and sometimes feeling sick. I don't want to waste anyone's time which is why I am asking here.

Hi I’ve done the bang same today but mine is a slim vac hoover the pain is unreal I’ve got a little lump on the back of my head we’re it landed I feel really nausea & tired other than that I feel fine wether it’s because I’m worrying I don’t no

Are you okay now

Be Aware off your surroundings at all times... Hoovering with Herbert on the stairs may give you a sense of pride, cleanliness and accomplishment
But you must always be mindful
Given the right height a sucker that size could Cause a cerebral hemmorage Go to the doc. Get checked out.

hello, not a medical expert here but you should really go check it out since you feel sick! otherwise, call a medical expert and explain your symptoms!

Are you okay now?

Helllo I’m 17 and I got punched right behind my ear and ever since I’ve got a lump that’s causing me all sorts of pain in my face and neck

I'm 27. Today I got shot by a paint ball in that same spot. It's pretty painful spot to get hit. Mine is starting to swell too and is causing my neck pain. How is it now for you?

I was laying down asleep on the couch and my husband and son were playing with a cellphone. My son dropped the cellphone and it hits the side of my head, immediately causing me to have a headache, knot on head, got dizzy when I tried to get up to get ice.

I got dizzy and had to sit down. When I put ice on my head, it hurts worse. My head hurts, hurts around my eyes. Should I go to ER or just wait to see if it gets worse?? I think its just a mild concussion

About a year ago I fell in the shower loss consciousness and had amnesia for the first 20 mins. I never went to the hospital but I had really painful headaches on the sides of my head and sometimes behind my eyes like six months after and now I’m starting to get them again. Is that related.

I I was walking across the garage floor and it was wet. I slipped and my feet came out from underneath of me, I fell back and hit my head very hard on the concrete floor. I managed to get up and come inside to get help and ice, I remember everything, I Have 2 cuts on my head. I remember everything, didn’t get nauseated, but my head hurts extremely bad. Should I go to ER?

I did the same thing but in my bathroom after trying to clear so a leak 3 days ago, almost no pain, now just a dull this, but took my wife to the neurologist at our local hospital, I mentioned it in passing to her and she was convinced I needed a CT scan, but they are so expensive. I am going to put it off for a day or two as I have very little pain I don't know if I will do it or not

I tripped and hit my head on a brick sidewalk about 3 days ago. It did cut a small gash right on my eyebrow next to the temple. Today it hurts more than the other two days. It hurts when I jar or turn my head. Do I need to see a doctor or just let it along? I’m 71.

I have iced the back of my head, no headache yet. I got up and I remembered what happened and walked into the house.

i fell on a concert walkway and hit my head at the back. At first there was a bit of swelling, I found it hard to move my head as it hurt my neck

Did you go to the hospital?

I was shoveling dirt out of the bed of a truck (planting bulbs so had truck load of dirt) somehow I slipped backwards and fell out it the truck hitting the back of my head. I was sore and banged up, drove my son to his allergy dr but felt like I was in a daze. Went on through the night, slept ok but now every time I stand I get dizzy and all feels foggy or hazy around me. I am 46yrs old and have RA. I dont want to go to the hospital with Coronavirus but I’m not sure what to do.

Please call your doctor or nurses and explain what happened. I understand the fear of wanting to go in right now but they will be able to advise you over phone what is the best plan now

You should report that to the hospital which may now be offering free telemedicine services and can try to examine you that way. They will let you know if you should come in although it already sounds like you should. The info above would support that.

I was being dumb and was in the shower holding my breath until I suddenly passed out and fell off of my walk in shower and hit my head really hard on my wood floor, after a few minutes I woke up in a complete headache and I decided not to go to the hospital but now I’m having second thoughts..

So Iam a 24 y/0. I was rollerblading and rolled a crack and landed on my butt elbow and quickly bounced the back of my head on the asphalt. It did hurt but I did not go unconscious. I hopped up fast didn't want to freak everyone out and have had a horrible headache since then and it's been hours since it happened and the back of my ear/temple hurts and also my neck by shoulder blades and head hurt. Should I take a bc and go to bed or go to er. It's been 6 hours

Call your doctor or nurses if you havent already they can advise best course of action over the phone.

I fell down metal stairs and hit my head I loss consciousness and dont remember walking up the stairs until i walked half way home

I was moving some things around and I bent down too pick up something and a flat screen tv monitor fell and hit my head but i didnt lose conscious or anything. Will I be okay?

to day I fall down in bath room back side of the my head hit strongly without bleeding ,swelling after that no loss of consciousness ,memory but head ach is prevailing even after 12 hours is the necessity to go for
CT scan or not whether it is alright

I fall down in bath room back side of the my head hit strongly without bleeding ,swelling after that no loss of consciousness ,memory but head ach is prevailing even after 12 hours is the necessity to go for
CT scan or not whether it is alright

I hit my head and it told 4stapes in it And my head did hurt then went to Hosp But it does now I diding have E Ray done Should I?

I hit my head on a bed frame now the front of my face is swollen & is constantly hurting. I am very concerned it feels like my skull is dented somehow, maybe I’m overacting. Should I go to the hospital ?

I banged my head on a barrier a week ago, it was the front of my head , it was such a force it knocked me back, I have no headaches and I didn't feel sick, but today I Have pain at the bottom of my spine, should I be worried I am 74 but quite fit

Earlier today, I was getting out of my car and hit my head on the door and fell onto the pavement. I briefly lost consciousness for like 10 seconds and now I have a headache. What should I do?

I banged my head on my cupboard door and it was bleeding almost instantly and sharp, shooting pains all over my head and strong eye pain

Shoukd i go to the hospital if my frirnd did a sharp turn and hit my head on the foam inside of the car?

I tripped and smacked the back of my head on the wall and now there is a large flat bump that hurts to touch and my neck and shoulders hurt what does this mean

Earlier today I got punched in the right temple. I have a headache, stomach ache, light headedness and pain in my ribs. Is this normal

What ended up happening? I hit myself out of anger several times in the temples and now I have a headache. I’m scared I caused damage.

Hi, 3 weeks ago a shelf stacked with heavy objects collapsed and fell on the top of my head. I saw stars briefly and a small lump appeared. I was sick when I got home which I know can be common. I keep feeling sea sick and I have had a couple of weird turns where I feel like I’ve come if a fair ground ride. Is this normal?

Fell back wards fell hard on back of head ran cold water on my head wichtook lump down alot but I now my head seems to be softer on top off my head at back I feel a little sick but not feeling to bad a little bit shackey

My friend hit accidentally hit me in the head with the back of her head and before that happened my head was a little sore but now it aches and i can't even touch or move my hair without it hurting, i don't know what to do

My good friend, who was 70 died last week after losing his balance climbing stairs and falling face first onto the tile floor from the 3rd step. He was a 6’2/220 lbs. His glasses cut his face right above his eye and there was a tremendous amount of blood. He remained conscious and was able to speak. The ambulance arrived within 5 minutes. Apparently, though- the fall caused a large brain bleed that was inoperable and he was declared brain dead in a very short time. I am devastated. His balance had been poor for some time and he had a couple of minor falls previously. He refused to use a cane or walker due to pride. His bedroom was on the second floor. This should have never happened. A tragic unnecessary death.

I got elbowed in the head a day ago, I was confused but it didn't hurt, it buzzed or something. I don't know the specific word for it but am I okay?

I got robbed a few days ago and my face was badly beaten I have swelling above my eye and lights hurt it very bad should I go to the doctor

I have anxiety and my issue doesn’t seem as bad as everyone else’s but I’m a 13 year old Minor I was laying on the floor and my sister took a stuffed animal and gave it to me It hit my right temple a little and there’s no swelling or anything but at first I felt a little weird am I okay? I think I am but I’m unsure

I cant see at night (night blind) and i was also drinking, went to the bar with my sister and she was holding my arm but forgot to move me brom the brick wall in front me i slammed my whole body into it split my lip, and my knee is also swollen and my head hurts, am i fine to not go in ir should i go in? I dont want to look dumb

I hit my head to the sink while getting up during bathing my toddler i got a lil bump kind of on top of forehead n its still hurts 4 day today should i go to doctor or not plz guide ..there is not mark or redness i feel pain if i touch that area lil...no other strong symptoms.



I was head butted by a 50 lb strong dog. His head hit my temple. It caused immediate pain & tears, dizziness & 3 days later I still have a 'foggy" mind & gull head ache