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.

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

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.

What happened to me today was I was playing tether ball at school and this kid through a rock at my head it was pretty big and it had a sharp tip cause when I went to the office crying they said they saw a scratch and blood they cleaned me all up asked me a few questions like do you have a headache I said yes they also asked me do I feel dizzy I said yes and they asked me do you feel like I’m going to throw up I said kinda they asked me if I know the date it took me awhile to answer and it was very hard go remember but now I remember several times a lot of the teachers said have a good Friday I’ll see you on Monday... currently I still have a headache and I have not been able to fall asleep. Also right before lunch at school I poked under my eye and it was blurry and now from getting this headache because of a rock hitting me on the side of my head my left eye is a little blurry ... ( my right eye is no longer blurry that was from me poking my eye but my left eye is blurry now) what do I do????

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?

Yes you should

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?