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 (775)

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 slipped and fell a week ago and landed on my back and hit my head slightly. I'm still getting headaches and tingling throbbing in lower part of my head is this normal. I'm worried

I had a minor Concussion went to the hospital there’s no bleeding on the brain came home next day balance is way off and I fell again hitting my head. I haven’t gone back to the hospital. It’s been three weeks my head still hurts and still nauseous but everything else is OK should I go back to the hospital

I feel and hit the side of my head above my temper on a coffee table corner. There is a home about the size of a pencil eraser. Other than just a little bleeding and swelling, and being sore to touch, I feel fine. Should I worry or is following the other signs to watch for ok for me?

A closing door slammed on the right, back/side of the head about 5 hours ago. Initially I was dazed but not unconscious. No nausea nor amnesia. Moderate, intermittant headache,a bit of sensitivity on right ear, I am 50 year old male. Sound like it warrants a visit to Dr. tomorrow morning?

Yesterday My boyfriend was carrying me on the front of him and he fell over on some grass , I feel backwards and hit the back of my head really hard, I felt like a cracking sound in the back of my head , I had a excruciating headache after and it’s the next day and I still have it abit along with a stiff neck and I feel very drowsy

Someone picked me up and slammed me today and I hit the back of my head ... I have played football for 2 years and it really hurts to hit your head but I’m a pretty tough young women but I always get over it and I just don’t know what to do ?

I bashed into someone with my head two days ago at a hockey game. I felt dizzy for about 15 mins after and had a slight headache the next day but no other symptoms. Should I see a doctor?

I was at work today and my coworker pulled off the vent from the grill (at mcdonalds) and when he swung it down i happened to bend down to get something and it smacked me on the side of the head, i stayed on my knees after a second to not scream from pain and i got back up and was fine. I feel fine and have, just a tiny bump and a small headache. Its 3am it happened around 11:30pm am i good to sleep or should i go to the hospital

7 days ago, my daughters 110 pd dog yanked me in the street to chase a deer. I went down hard on the asphalt right side upper cheek at eye socket and Lip area took most of the hit. I was dazed, dizzy , nauseated, faint and shaking. Couldn’t stand up for 5-10 minutes. 7 days later it still hurts more than tylonal can treat.
If the eye socket was fractured there isn’t anything they can do, right? The lump above my lip is prob a hematoma ? So my question is , there is a great chance that I’m fine right? I’m 60 years old female. Thank you !

Two weeks ago I fell over and hit my head when intoxicated, I vomited afterwards. No particular headache (apart from a hangover) the next day. I have a dent/divert in my head where I hit it (it bled quite a bit at the time, but the wound was only small and is healed now) - is this normal? Willit heal?

Yesterday I leaned back on my work out bench and hit my head really hard I didn't feel dizzy or feel sick to my stomach I slept fine last night, Today that spot of my head is sore , Not sure if I should get it checked out

Just today four bottles fell on the back of my head from a shelf support breaking. The shelf is in arms reach. I just feel weaker with a little pain. Two glass two plastic.

I fell backwards when I tripped over a cat water fountain and hit the back lower right side of my head and neck. It really hurt, but I did not lose consciousness. I took an Aleve immediately. I am just sore. There is no bump so I know I should not sleep for a good while. What should I do?

I smacked my head standing up straight at work in a big thick metal sign. It hurt very bad when it happened, I got a minor headache shortly after that’s gotten worse. No other symptoms. Should I go to the hospital? I know it probably wasn’t a very severe injury but I have a lot of anxiety and I really don’t want to have a brain bleed and die or anything. I’m a 23 yr old female

when I was in my late teens I kept passing out I would be just standing there then just drop The 1st time it happened I hit my head on the table the second time it happened I was outside in my friends driveway passed out falling backwards crack in the back of my head on the concrete when I woke up I couldn't see So I just went home with help from my friend and went to bed the 3rd time it happened I was at a friends house in his basement getting ready to leave and it happened again passing out hitting the back of my head on the concrete floor never went to the hospital for any of them. I've have had memory and concentration problems later in life. what could be the long-term effects . it seems to be getting worse as I age

You should go to the hospital sounds like very serious injuries it's better to be safe than sorry

Yesterday while me and my brother were joking around, by accident my brother turned around and they both hit their heads but the things is my mom hasn’t been feeling well, she says she has a headache and doesn’t feel well since yesterday and that on her left side of the head where my brother hit doesn’t hurt if not on the opposite side which is the right, should we take her to the hospital or not because I’m getting really worried she says she feels like throwing up and doesn’t really feel normal like a bit confused...., should we take her to the hospital?

I hit my head, sometimes once a week when I am cleaning out the goats as their house is quite low. I banged my head this morning on one of the wood beams. I had a headache for a couple of hours afterwards, nothing too bad but its feeling achy now.
I'm concerned lately how often it has happened. However, I will be building a house for them with lots of head room asap.

I hit my head 2 days ago because someone pushed me into a wall. When I touch it, it still hurts. I was kind of okay that day. I started vomiting, feeling nauseous, and having headaches yesterday’s night and today but these symptoms match with my stomach medications. Should I go get it check out? My mother and friends said it’ll be fine but I’m just very worried something might have happened. The school recommended me to get it check out. Should I do so?

I was hit in the top of my head on Saturday afternoon by a bunch of plastic boxes with shoes inside. I felt a little dazed at first but that subsided. We went out and had a couple of mixed drinks on Sunday I woke up with what felt like a hangover with nausea and dry heaves. Got worse as the day progressed. Today, Monday I’m still no better still nauseous and very tired didn’t go to work had some diarrhea also. It worries because I can normally handle my 3 vodka cranberries. I’m not an everyday drinker, have not had a drink in about 3 weeks or so. Just a little concerned my husband said it can’t be a concussion. Thank you.

When I was sitting down my brothers where fooling around and hit my head super hard I don’t know if I should go to the hospital plz respond back ASAP thank you

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

I slipped and feel face first, flat on my face. My nose bled pretty bad,but it’s been 13 hours and have had a headache since. I just woke up dizzy,headache, and nauseated. I don’t feel that anything is broken

Okay same i literally thought i was gonna have a stroke I’m like panicking right now whic is clearly why i am looking up what to do when you bit your head hard lol.

I got hit pretty hard above my temple in a fight. I have a goose egg in the spot of impact. Slight headache and the goose egg is tender to touch the day after. Should I go to the er?

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.

So if you have any bleeding or a cut go if you black out or vomit go. If you have a bump bugger than two centimetres don’t be concerned but ask them questions like the date and their birthday after that if they say the wrong answer go to a&e if the bump continues after two weeks or a week then go.

My dad smashed my head of the corner of the fridge it was really swelled like a golf ball and it’s been about a month and a half later and I still get nauseous and headaches

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 Was Fighting And The Person Struck Me n My Temple Didn’t Pass Out Bored , But I Have Been Worried Because I Have Swelling And Pain On The Left Side Of My Temple And Jaw Should I Seek An Hospital

I work in a hospital. Last Friday, I hit my head on the corner of the IV monitor. I had a slight headache and If I remember correctly I went to sleep afterwards. Yesterday, out of nowhere my head goes to throbbing on the side I hit my head. Took some tylenol and it feels better but my eye is hurting kind of like its sensitive to the light and when I look at my phone. Could I have a concussion after all this time?

I am 28 years old FM I got into a fight with someone she pulled my hair really hard and twisted my neck and sat on me. My scalp has been hurting me and my neck and head aches a month later I had vaginal prolapse surgery which I had 10 days a go every time I sit or stand I get severe headache and dizziness also feel sick my vision gets blurred i get ringing in my ear I have been told it is a spinal headache I’m not sure if it is connected to the head injury I need advice on what I should do thank you

I got into a car accident today and I hit my head on the window I feel fine but I have a bump on my head and a headache should I see a doctor

I got elbowed in the temple 5 hours ago. It is now bruised and I have a headache it gets worse when I move my head around. Should I go to the a&e? I have very slight nausea too

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??

Get a different doctor's opinion and dont settle for 1 input...u have to live that way for the rest of your life..so take care of yourself and get a second opinion...might unsurprisingly be the best thing

Nope, get a cat scan! It was irresponsible of that doctor not to order a cat scan in the first place! Be insistent, threaten to sue, whatever it takes to get them to give him one.
I would ask for another doctor...always get a 2nd opinion anyway.

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.

Bloody nose swollen lip blood stopped down but very swollen pain in knees and elbows


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

This happened to me when I was 7 and I'm a 13 year old girl and I have a bump on the back of my head that is rock hard and ever since then ive had mild memory problems and I've had fatigue and no energy whatsoever. I also think my there is something up with my bones because when I try to run despite my energy levels, my knees give in. There are other bone issues too, but not too bad.

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.

You have a strong lawsuit on your hands.. hopefully you went to the hospital and got it all documented..

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?

OMG. Don't worry about the germs! A brain bleed can KILL them fairly quickly OR very very slowly!

First of all a two and a half year old should not be in a crib. Further to fall, thus concussion. She should be in a bed with a guard rail. They are not expensive and work extremely well to prevent falling. They cover only part of the bed so a two and a half year old could climb out over the part that was not covered. Children's beds are lower and thus less far to fall climbing out of. Also put a thick rug by the bed. REPEAT: NO TWO and a HALF YEAR OLD SHOULD STILL BE SLEEPING IN A CRIB. IF YOU AND MAMA ARE "EXTREMELY NEUROTIC" YOU WOULDN'T HAVE THEM IN CRIBS AT TWO AND A HALF. INVEST IN TWO BEDS OR GET THEM AT GOODWILL AND TWO RUGS, AND A GUARD RAIL.

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