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 (812)

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.

How are you feeling now? I had a hit on the same spot . Feeling fuzzy as well.

The other day I was pushed into the wall and hit my head, I dony really remember acually hitting the wall and it didn't hurt right away after but like 10 minutes later it started hurting really bad, its been a couple days now and it still hurt really bad and I've had a constant headache and it feels like my head is throbbing and it hurts my scalp when I put up my hair. Should I go to the hospital?

On Monday morning 1/27, just getting out of bed, I bent over to put on my shoe, lost my balance and hit my right temple on the corner of my nightstand. Headaches a lot and very sore in the jaw area. The knot is outwards and very sore to touch. Should I seek medical attention?

I hit my head on Thursday at 4 am when I fell unconscious for about 20 seconds. But I don't know if I fell directly on the floor or if my head hit the door corner, additionally, no-one saw, I was just lying on the floor. When I regained consciousness I thought I was dreaming and my feet were wobbly. I couldn't talk properly. After about 2 minutes or so I was fairly stable I had pain in that area of my head ever since and occasionally my whole head would hurt. When I walk faster than usual then I would feel each and every of those footsteps in my head same goes with the staircase. I do feel dazed sometimes and I can't properly focus but I've also been taking some heavy medications since Wednesday as I had high fever, actually that may had caused the loss of consciousness. But now that my fever is gone I have severe sore throat so I'm still on medications. I had been sleeping on only one side of my head ever since because it made like a little bump and is VERY sensitive to the touch. I don't know what's causing my airy like state, my head or my sickness? Can someone please advise me what to do. Thank you.

Sounds kinda serious!

I'd most definitely go and see someone to check that out.

I hit my head on the corner of a desk , it did hurt a lot at the time and i had a large lump on the top of my head and a headache for a couple of hours .As the lump has gone down i notice there is a dent which is painful to touch , should i be worried about it , thanks .

So I went out two nights ago and got pretty drunk. I don’t remember getting back home. I woke up the next morning with a huge gash and couple bruises on my knee indicating I fell. I don’t remember falling, but the side/ top of my head is also sore to the touch. I’m guessing I hit my head in the process? I threw up the next day but assumed it was from the drinking. I have felt kind of out of it since that night. And my head still hurts. Should I go to the doctor?

I hit my left temple on the counter but i didn’t hit it that hard it was kind of light but it was enough for me to say ouch . Now the left side hurts a little bit like a tickling sensation. Should I be worried???

I think you should get It checked, but thats Just my opinion.

I hit my forehead off of the wall days ago and only now about 4 days after have developed a hard lump under my eye, as well as a black eye that’s only getting worse. I know the blood is draining from the egg on my head I’m more worried about the hard lump?

I hope you went to the ER

i would go to the hospital

I believe I would get that checked out since it has caused a knot in a place that wasn't hit.

I also hit my head on the edge of a door literally 8months ago now it left me with a big goose egg an then two black eyes days later & ever since I’ve been left with a hard lump on my forehead I’m a little worried myself if I’m honest, why do I still have this lump 8months on.....????! Someone help your advice would be greatful thanks

So today at the gym I accidentally dropped a 95 lbs weight in my head right above my left eye. It instantly welped up. I feel okay now it’s been a bout 2 hours. I have a bit of pain In My eye and of course a headache. Should I go in or is it safe to wait. I’m also a nanny of a 8 month old so I only have 3 days to decide before I go back to work On Monday.

How are you feeling? I had am 8lb weight roll off the top of the shelf and hit the top of my forehead....i feel fine, didnt lose consciousness but it does seem to hurt more now, which im assuming is the bruise/lump and itsa been 3 hours...

I lost my balance and hit the back of my head on a cast iron fireplace tool yesterday. I have a bump on that side of my head, a headache and I feel a bit “fuzzy brained”. Now I have a new bump on the opposite side of my head that really hurts. Should I be concerned? I am the main caregiver of my disabled husband and kids - and the only driver!

hi, I was punched in the head and after a week when i press on a spot on the side of my head it hurts alot. I got a CAT scan and they found nothing wrong at the time and it's been a week and I still feel pain and headache.

Hello, recently today I was ice skating and fell backwards and hit the back of my head hard against the ice floor, I felt my head throbbing and it hurts my neck to move my head around. Later that night I began getting minor headaches for short periods of time that leave and come back. Would you suggest going to the doctor?

So I was being stupid and jumped on my bed in a hurry to lay down with my phone in my hand, and it landed on my left temple. I didn’t have any headaches, vertigo or any of the symptoms listed above. I also noticed that when I bit down, just messing around to relive the pain on my temple it started to hurt even worse. I don’t know if it means anything, all I know is it was hurting for a while; and now the pain is gone.

Hi today at work i hit my head on the corner of the microwave and I started bleeding and was dizzy and got a headache and I still have the headache and the dizziness. I also have virtigo so should I see my doc

Sure kid, sounds like u got a goated concussion

yes, you probably should

my neck has been hurting for 3 days should i go to the hospital?

So I slide and feel down my steps tonight, I hit my neck on the steps and I'm pretty certain I broke my tailbone. I didn't pass out, puke, or anything like that but my neck is pretty sore. It mainly just hurts when I move my head but there are no Mark's or swelling is it safe to wait and see if it gets better/worse tomorrow and then go to the dr?

I just did the same thing, did you recover ok?

If you have pain that radiates down your arm, spine, or up your head, then a nerve is pinched and you need to see a Dr. Is the pain decreasing now?

I was putting rubbish out 2 days ago and when coming back in I slipped and whacked front of head on door frame.. I was dazed for about a minute!!! No bruise or swelling but my forehead is sore to touch!! Keep Getting pains in front of my head and weird like numbness in my face!!!

I was in PE with the kids and a red kick (the old fashioned ones they are not hard) but a kid kicked it full force and hit my whole side of face . It hurt but I had no headache no vomiting nothing, I mean it stung and my head felt sore a little but did not hurt. Today my left side of neck and shoulder hurt feels sore and stiff. I am 55. My daughter is a nurse she thinks its whiplash .. Could I get a bleed on brain from being hit? I’m getting nervous because now it’s sore on left side. I went to work at school today was fine until I got home to relax.

I fell face first down some concrete stairs today and I’m not sure if I lost consciousness. Other than scrapes and swelling on my face my limbs are so sore. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck! Will this pass or should I make an appointment

I think you should, that sounded a bit hectic- you poor thing-, hope you're doing better, now. All the best, anonymous.

Eight days ago I was gardening and slipped and fell on a mossy rock. My yard is full of very large, sharp boulders. I hit my bum (very large bruise still there) and then hit the back of my head on another rock. I think I might have passed out. Cannot recall. My head did not really hurt until a few days ago, and now I am getting moderate headaches in the area that I hit. Should I worry? I did not go to the doctor after the fall. I am 58 years old.

My husband fell backward and hit his head on a pub table, he was a bit disoriented and had a big egg on the back of his head. Of course he didn’t want to get it looked at and he same ok but now it’s been a few weeks and he getting dizzy. Should I take him to get checked out.

Hello ... I was wanting to ask a question.. About two or three months ago I passed out in my kitchen , I tried to catch myself on the counter but I was already to far back to reach it . I remember going down and I could hear the sound of my head hitting the concert floor. It sound like a gun shot . It knocked in out for a few seconds . I should have gone to the hospital . My husband was a work when it happened but I told him the next day . I didn’t feel right after I fell but I just keep going . About a week later I started talking and seeing people that wasn’t there .. My husband thought it was the medication I was taking . Now I don’t see people but every once in a while I get a sharp pain in my head . It has been awhile since I fell but do I still need to have a MRI or C T scan

If a person fell 25ft above and hit his head landing on a concrete sidewalk, would that be fatal? or is there a chance of survival?

I hit side of my head and now I hit hurts when I try to yawn

I am one month away from turning 60. On Christmas day my boyfriend assaulted me and dropped me on a tiled floor causing me to hit the back of my head very hard. I had a very big bump on the back of my head which has subsided a bit but is still sore to the touch. I have a tiny bruise behind my left ear and my ear hurts inside if I pull on my ear. I have had a numb headache at the back of my ears since then. Should I go to the doctor and have it checked out? I have other bruises on my body as well!!!

I had an accident at work just over a week ago... My workmate and I were having trouble retracting a pump truck from beneath an empty pallet, so I stood on the pallet in the hope that my weight would hold it in place whilst my buddy pulled the pump truck out (we’ve done this before and it works!)... However, this time it didn’t work - he ended up yanking the entire pallet from beneath me - I lost my balance and fell backwards, landed flat on my back and smacked my head on the concrete floor. I felt really sick and dizzy for a minute or two, but then I made myself get up as if nothing had happened. I have felt OK-ish since... I think the back of my head hurts slightly and I might be a bit more forgetful - but I don’t know if I’m imagining it, because of the accident. Should I see a doctor? It’s now nine days since I fell and I’ve survived so far! I’m a 51 year old lady, in good health.

Hi, I've just come across your comment. I would certainly get checked by a Doctor. Hope you feel better soon!

I have been hit on the head by my boyfriend so I'm having pains on my head It is even swollen I can't even swallow the areas around my ears are also swollen

What?! I hope you went to the hospital! That is abuse! I hope you are safe. Do you have any friends or family you could stay with? You should never be with someone who would hit you.

Are you okay? I’m not a doctor, but am concerned. I feel like you should go to a doctor. Your boyfriend should not be hurting you.

I would suggest you get to a Dr. If this from multiple hits damage could be cumulative. I would also suggest getting some counseling, or removing him or yourself from each other in abusive situations. I understand the reasons to stay and that being made to feel like you are nothing is a long term process. Been there done that, got out finally and found that I am really someone I like. No one can put me down now. Hard to do but worth the hassle.


My Wifes hatchback supports gave out and the hatch came down on the back of her head pretty hard. No symptoms except she is developing a slight black eye on her right eye 48 hours later. I know getting hit the frontal area of the skull will cause black eyes, but I wasn't aware a blow to the back could. Anything to be concerned about? Thank you!

The top of my eye hurts after i hurt my head and has hurt for 2 days what should i do

Someone rear ended me the 8th and the dr told me I’ve had a concussion. Been vomiting off and on since the accident. I’m very wobbly, can’t focus. Today if I close my eyes or focus it’s worse. And there’s like a vibration (tremble maybe) throughout me. I couldn’t pass the finger to nose drunk test I think he dr. Office Friday but it seems worse now. I go back to the dr. Tomorrow, can I wait or should I go to the Er today?

Of course you should go to the ER! Are you kidding me? Those are serious symptoms!

I hit my right temple on the cushioned frame on the car getting back in the car - it hurts and now have a headache should I go to the walk-in or the ED

I was walking home drunk but have no memory and was found on the floor unconscious. I still have no memory if I hit my head or not but the last few days I’ve been feeling very dizzy and dazed aswell as having a headache and being confused aswell as not being able to concentrate. I did briefly pass out the morning after and woke up very confused and an ambulance was called, my blood pressure is still fine but I’m worried maybe i should of gone to the hospital.

I was rolling down a grass hill and there were these rock stairs and my head hit the rock stairs and my head hurts and I’m dizzy with a headache and my neck hurts also my friends were there and they said they heard a like loud noise when I hit my head so what do I do?!