When to Call the Doctor after your Child Hits His Head

When we hear the awful thud of a child's head, our breath catches. A prompt cry after the injury is reassuring. But as parents we still worry.

When we hear the awful thud of a child’s head, our breath catches. A prompt cry after the injury is reassuring but can be scary too.  Kids may cry very intensely and even find it hard to catch their breath after a hard bump.  In fact, a hard head bump is a common cause of a breath-holding spell in younger kids. Your first job after a head bump is to check the area for any bleeding or open wounds. Then, comfort your child by hugging them, picking them up and speaking calmly to them. It may take as long as 10-15 minutes for them to calm down.  As they are calming down, check for the symptoms listed below.

The following is a list of signals that tell you that you need to talk with your pediatrician after your child hits his head.

If your child hits his head and is (or has):

  • Under six months of age
  • Unconscious, even briefly
  • Crying for longer than 10 minutes or prolonged irritability
  • Vomiting repeatedly
  • Bleeding or other liquid draining from the ears, mouth, or nose
  • Rapid swelling just above the ear
  • Bruising around the ear or eye
  • Unable to walk or talk normally
  • Acting strangely or drowsy
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Severe, worsening headache
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Seizures
  • Skull indentation or large bump
  • Great force of injury (car accident, long fall, baseball bat, etc.)
  • Worsening symptoms or symptoms improve then worsen

What next?

If any of these symptoms or situations are present or if you have any concerns, call your physician right away. Your child may be fine, but you should be in touch with an expert. If your child is unable to get up by herself or is unconscious immediately after the head injury, don’t move her. Call 911 and wait for emergency help to arrive.

What else?

If none of these symptoms are present, it is fine to let your child sleep, as long as you are nearby to consistently check on her.  Sleepiness or drowsiness can be common immediately after a head injury. Many physicians recommend waking your child to see if they are oriented after the initial two hours of sleeping. After this, awaken her at your bedtime and again four hours later to check on her status. After 24 hours it is fine to return to a normal sleep routine.  

Other common symptoms include headache and mild tummy upset. .. Watch your child closely for the first two hours after the injury and avoid pain medications for these first couple of hours. In general we also recommend avoiding heavy foods that may cause vomiting during this time.  If at any time your child seems to develop a suspicious symptom, call your doctor immediately.  

It is common for head bumps to develop large “goose eggs” or swellings; this is because of the large blood supply to the scalp.  The large swelling does not indicate brain swelling.  This area of swelling may be uncomfortable when touched, but as long as your child is otherwise acting normally, it is generally not a cause for concern.  Using ice packs on the area may help reduce the initial swelling.  During subsequent days, the swelling may drain down the face causing swelling and even bruising underneath where the original injury was.  If you ever become concerned about new symptoms or increasing pain, please call your pediatrician for an evaluation.  

A quick note on concussion

A concussion is an injury to the brain usually caused by a jolt or bump to the head which causes the brain to move back and forth.  For more detailed information on signs of concussion please go to our article on concussion here. 

An illustration of a concussion, a violent jarring or shaking that results in a disturbance in brain function

Did the information in this article help to answer your questions? What else could we include here to help other parents who are wondering if they should call a doctor after their child has hit their head?

References and Resources 

CDC – Head Injury

Gelineau-Morel,Rose, et al. Pediatric Head Trauma: A Review and Update. Pediatrics in Review September 2019, 40 (9) 468-481.   

Note: Dr. Greene has provided the above information for parents and caregivers after a child has hit their head. Doctors use these guidelines as the basis for determining if a child needs to be further evaluated. Because they are general in nature, readers often have specific follow-up questions. Unfortunately, Dr. Greene can not provide individualized diagnosis or treatment suggestions. If you still have questions after reading this, contact your child’s pediatrician.

Last medical review on: January 04, 2021
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Hello my 3 year only soon to b 4 fell off my bed and my bed is high and he hit the edge of my night stand it happened about 2 weeks ago the swelling has gone down alot but he has this little endintion idk how to spell it on his forehead were he fell its not a different color and when I ask he says it doesn’t hurt him and he’s been acting like himself nothing is different about him im just one worried mommy please help ! The minute he fell i iced it monitored him for 48 hours nothing changed about him or the way he was acting

Hi Rian,

Experienced mom here and to me, this sounds normal. Dr. Greene wrote a great piece about this called Big Heads & Baby Falls. I think you’ll really enjoy it (and breathe a sigh of relief).

I hope that helps,
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi! I have a almost 1 year old he is 11 months and will be 1 in two weeks he is always bumping his head on things! a couple days ago I took him to a school parking lot to practice walking with his shoes he sat down on the concrete and then fell backwards and hit the back of his head on the concrete I picked him up he didn’t really cry it was more of a fuss he fussed for a minute and then wanted me to put him down so he could walk again I’ve been watching him for the last two days and he seems fine he’s not acting different or anything but I’m a first time parent and I’m still worried just last night he was sleeping and literally head butted my lip on the back of his head he continued to sleep like nothing happened and wasn’t even fazed today he seems fine as well. should I take him to the doctor or am I just overreacting ?

Hi Rian,

Experienced mom here and to me, this sounds normal. Dr. Greene wrote a great piece about this called Big Heads & Baby Falls. I think you’ll really enjoy it (and breathe a sigh of relief).

I hope that helps,
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Co-sleeping is beneficial and safe for mom and baby, but should only be done if neither parent drinks or do drugs, are breastfeeding, takes sleeping meds, and have no comforters or pillows on the bed. Baby cots that attach to the bed are wonderful and extra safe for the babe. A pacifier, once breastfeeding is established, also has proven to prevent/deter SIDS. My pediatrician and breastfeeding consultants, both have no issues with cosleeping as long as the previous permitters are followed. It shows no increase in sIDS, and some studies found it lowering the likelihood. The vast majority of “roll over deaths” have occurred during intoxication, drugs, or medication with drowsiness.

It is my belief that mesothelioma is usually the most dangerous cancer. It contains unusual features. The more I really look at it a lot more I am persuaded it does not conduct itself like a true solid tissues cancer. If perhaps mesothelioma is usually a rogue viral infection, in that case there is the possibility of developing a vaccine plus offering vaccination for asbestos open people who are at high risk involving developing upcoming asbestos associated malignancies. Thanks for giving your ideas about this important health issue.

*WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. ;) ?

Dear Nonhlanhla,

Unfortunately, Dr. Greene can’t provide specific recommendations for individuals who are not his patients.

We have provided the above information for parents and caregivers after a child has hit their head. Doctors use these guidelines as the basis for determining if a child needs to be further evaluated. Because they are general in nature, you may have specific follow-up questions. For those questions, it is best to contact your child’s pediatrician. If you are not satisfied with the answer you receive, it is appropriate to see another doctor for a second opinion.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hie Dr Greene,my 2 yr old daughter fell from the bed and hurt her forehead above the Right eye and got a huge bump.l took to neurosurgeon and he said it’s a pingpong fracture it will heal .The bump subsided the next day but now if you palpate you can still feel a hard thing don’t know if it will ever be smooth again.He refused for a skull xray to be done and said its not necessary . Please advice me on what to do.

Dear Nonhlanhla,

Unfortunately, Dr. Greene can’t provide specific recommendations for individuals who are not his patients.

We have provided the above information for parents and caregivers after a child has hit their head. Doctors use these guidelines as the basis for determining if a child needs to be further evaluated. Because they are general in nature, you may have specific follow-up questions. For those questions, it is best to contact your child’s pediatrician. If you are not satisfied with the answer you receive, it is appropriate to see another doctor for a second opinion.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I’d take him to the doctor and switch him to a toddler bed right away! Good luck mama ❤

I feel like since the jaw is a pretty painful spot, she might have just been shaking from pain, I remember shaking and throwing up from hitting my knee really hard as a kid. Even still get her checked out for your peace of mind ❤

Hi Jerome,

That sounds terrifying. Unfortunately, Dr. Greene can’t provide specific recommendations for individuals who are not his patients.

We have provided the above information for parents and caregivers after a child has hit their head. Doctors use these guidelines as the basis for determining if a child needs to be further evaluated. Because they are general in nature, you may have specific follow-up questions. For those questions, it is best to contact your child’s pediatrician.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My child just slipped and hit her jaw first on the floor and suddenly started shaking and eventually stopped shortly after a few minutes.

I’m worried at the moment as there might be a serious injury that caused the seizure.

She only suffered a broken lower lip.

Should I be worried too much after this accident?

I feel like since the jaw is a pretty painful spot, she might have just been shaking from pain, I remember shaking and throwing up from hitting my knee really hard as a kid. Even still get her checked out for your peace of mind ❤

Hi Jerome,

That sounds terrifying. Unfortunately, Dr. Greene can’t provide specific recommendations for individuals who are not his patients.

We have provided the above information for parents and caregivers after a child has hit their head. Doctors use these guidelines as the basis for determining if a child needs to be further evaluated. Because they are general in nature, you may have specific follow-up questions. For those questions, it is best to contact your child’s pediatrician.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I have that. Doc said it’s a calcium deposit or some such. It’s gotten better of time but hasn’t gone completely away. I asked if there was something easy to do about it like ice packs or hot packs and he said no. Mine is pretty small so I didn’t ask about surgery.

Beth did you ever get your child checked out ?? The same thing happened to my 1.5 yr old last night his eyes rolled in back of his head and I was yelling at him for about 15-20 secs to wake up and he did and seemed to be just zoned out once he finally stopped crying after about 10 mins. But I do not want to expose him to radiation if it’s not necessary at the same time I don’t want to not do something to find out later on I should have known to

Beth did you ever get your child checked out ?? The same thing happened to my 1.5 yr old last night his eyes rolled in back of his head and I was yelling at him for about 15-20 secs to wake up and he did and seemed to be just zoned out once he finally stopped crying after about 10 mins. But I do not want to expose him to radiation if it’s not necessary at the same time I don’t want to not do something to find out later on I should have

I was 14 years old when i was on the bed and my playful cousin lifted the bed up,allowing me to hit my head on the hard ground.. he help me in getting up and when he saw the bump ,he ran out to call Granny the bump was so big that it got everyone really scared
.Granny massaged it hard with an ointment and also applied ice pack on it..and then I slept .by the time i woke up the fluid was all over my nose ..to cut the story short all I used was ointment ,ice pack,and warm water after few weeks the lump went down leaving a little bump.
and it happen again last year at 18 year old I hitted the same head on the door,and it got swollen,I did use ornament about three days and I let it be.

Now that I am 19,close friends started asking me wat happen to my head and that motivate me into wanting to treat it again..I started massaging it two days ago and the bump got a little bigger,am thinking of using ice block also but am confuse
I want a complete treatment for this and I hope it isn’t too late after over 6 years of the bump in my head
pls advice me!

I have that. Doc said it’s a calcium deposit or some such. It’s gotten better of time but hasn’t gone completely away. I asked if there was something easy to do about it like ice packs or hot packs and he said no. Mine is pretty small so I didn’t ask about surgery.

Hi Hammad,

Dr. Greene just released an article on when to and when not to get a CT Scan, plus risks for kids. You can find it here –> CTs, MRIs, Ultrasounds: Differences, Risk & Benefits.

I hope this answers your questions.

Best,
I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My elder son was playing with younger one 1.5 years of age. He hit the laptop bettry on younger head.
Younger one has a 5 drop of blood from the ear…..
I go to the doctor for the primary treatment…. Kid s fine giving him pain killer..taking food properly. No nousia… Behaving fully normal now. No more bleeding….
Laughing. Playing. All s feeling better as observing.
I request you to please suggest me should I go for CT scan.

Hi Hammad,

Dr. Greene just released an article on when to and when not to get a CT Scan, plus risks for kids. You can find it here –> CTs, MRIs, Ultrasounds: Differences, Risk & Benefits.

I hope this answers your questions.

Best,
I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

If your child is repeatedly falling out of bed, are you sure he’s not having seizures? Especially with a fever. Maybe febrile seizures? Sounds like you need a doctor. I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow. I’d go now.

Good evening.i ve 2.8 year old baby boy.he has fallen from cot several times.even this morning he has fallen from cot.he vomitted once and fever of 102 c.i m concerned about him .is the fever due to fallen from cot?
Waiting for reply…….

I’d take him to the doctor and switch him to a toddler bed right away! Good luck mama ❤

If your child is repeatedly falling out of bed, are you sure he’s not having seizures? Especially with a fever. Maybe febrile seizures? Sounds like you need a doctor. I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow. I’d go now.

Yes you should’ve gotten the CT! An x-ray will only show bone fracture but the CT could’ve found internal bleeding or brain swelling. Doctors take into consideration radiation exposure when weighing the risks and benefits. Your x-ray probably didn’t give him much less radiation than the CT would’ve. Listen to your doctors, they went to many years of school for this specific purpose!

Our 16 month old fell and hit the back of his head on cement today at the pool. When I got home I realized his left side (arm and leg) were limp and not working. He couldn’t sit without falling over, couldn’t stand, or crawl. I freaked out and took him to the ER. Once we got there, while waiting, he started getting better noticeably. However, there was still some struggling. Doc came in and asked a bunch of questions but all was well aside from the CT scan. He basically said baby looked okay but let’s do one just in case. We thought about it but then decided against it because he was getting better and better while we were still there at the ER. Has anyone else heard of a whole side going numb/limp?!

What a horrible thing to say to a new mum, you should be ashamed of yourself, this girl wasn’t looking for judgement she was looking for advice, maybe you could educate yourself on the difference. while you’re at it look up tact. She also didn’t ask for your opinion on co-sleeping either. I’m sure you’re the perfect mother who’s never had an accident but you’ve just made yourself look like a bully and although you might do everything by the book to convince yourself you’re above everyone who chooses to do things differently, I certainly hope you bring your child up to have more manners than you.

Also, there is not much that is done really for a small skull fracture in terms of the bone…you just want to be cautious with it and get rest and nutritious food so it can heal. The main concern (for me at least) is damage to the brain. Which needs the same sort of treatment as the skull above anyway. If you have eliminated symptoms of serious swelling or bleeding, I would say treating it very carefully and promoting healing and rest is what it needs. We are extra careful with our son that had a head injury (we have 4 sons and we just are extra vigilant with him in particular,) so as not to re-injure especially during the long brain healing phase. Head injuries are cumulative unfortunately.

Just a mom here, but I am so glad you used your intuition and got a second opinion. CT scans are used far more often than necessary and there is great risk from a CT scan itself to a child’s brain and cancer in the future.

Also, there is not much that is done really for a small skull fracture in terms of the bone…you just want to be cautious with it and get rest and nutritious food so it can heal. The main concern (for me at least) is damage to the brain. Which needs the same sort of treatment as the skull above anyway. If you have eliminated symptoms of serious swelling or bleeding, I would say treating it very carefully and promoting healing and rest is what it needs. We are extra careful with our son that had a head injury (we have 4 sons and we just are extra vigilant with him in particular,) so as not to re-injure especially during the long brain healing phase. Head injuries are cumulative unfortunately.

No. If they have checked her and you are monitoring her, do not ask for a scan. CT Scans are necessary for some life-threatening conditions, but they are very bad for you -especially children. It is the equivalent of hundreds of x-rays (to the brain! in this case. This is ionizing radiation – is known to break the bonds of DNA.) I am a bit foggy on my research stat numbers, but CT scans of children ARE linked to brain tumors later in life. Do NOT ask for it or let them talk you into it unless there is truly a life- threatening emergency that is dependent on the results of the CT scan!

One week with a bump you should’ve taken your son to the ER already and not even wait 1 month

Just a mom here, but I’d take her to see a doc.

hi there my daughter fell or she say she was pussed by neighbours older daughter .my daughter is 4 knock on her forehead fells like bloodclunt infront must i be worried she said i don’t pain but she complain this morning about eye is soar and seems like she got a fever and she feels hot ..neighbours daughter 14years old what can i do

Just a mom here, but I’d take her to see a doc.

Yes take her right away

My granddaughter has had a knot on her head for at least ten days should I take her to the hospital

Good evening.i ve 2.8 year old baby boy.he has fallen from cot several times.even this morning he has fallen from cot.he vomitted once and fever of 102 c.i m concerned about him .is the fever due to fallen from cot?
Waiting for reply…….

Yes take her right away

Same as my daughter, I think it’s ok no need to worry

Beth did you ever get your child checked out ?? The same thing happened to my 1.5 yr old last night his eyes rolled in back of his head and I was yelling at him for about 15-20 secs to wake up and he did and seemed to be just zoned out once he finally stopped crying after about 10 mins. But I do not want to expose him to radiation if it’s not necessary at the same time I don’t want to not do something to find out later on I should have known to

Hi Dr. Greene,
Earlier today my 3 year old son was playing with his father and had tripped, fell, and hit his head on the corner edge of a wooden barstool. He cried a lot right away. I picked him up and felt a dent where the impact was: left side of the top of his head. I took him to urgent care and he was acting completely normal but the doctor was concerned about the small dent and ordered a CT scan. I decided to wait a few hours and watch my son there and he was okay. I got a second opinion because I was worried about the radiation from the CT and the second Dr said a couple x-rays should show a possible fracture. She didn’t see one but recommended rest. It’s been about 12 hours since the incident and he seems okay. Did I make a bad choice? Should I have got him the CT scan? You think he will be okay?

Yes you should’ve gotten the CT! An x-ray will only show bone fracture but the CT could’ve found internal bleeding or brain swelling. Doctors take into consideration radiation exposure when weighing the risks and benefits. Your x-ray probably didn’t give him much less radiation than the CT would’ve. Listen to your doctors, they went to many years of school for this specific purpose!

Just a mom here, but I am so glad you used your intuition and got a second opinion. CT scans are used far more often than necessary and there is great risk from a CT scan itself to a child’s brain and cancer in the future.

Same as my daughter, I think it’s ok no need to worry

I would be worried if there isn’t a bump at all. My friends daughter fell onto cement at 11mo and cracked her skull. There was no swelling for a few days and then a bubble appeared on her head where her spinal fluid was seeping through the crack. Get her checked. Better safe than sorry

take him to the pediaright away :( from your description, it looks like he might have myoclonic jerks or atonic seizures. just to make sure.

My son hit his head due to my daughter trying to play with him and dropped him, he is 18 months. This was 3 months ago and he still seems to have the bump on his head and also it’s now become a bald spot where the bump is…. I don’t know what it is or what to do

One week with a bump you should’ve taken your son to the ER already and not even wait 1 month

You must feel horrible. That happens to a lot of parents, especially when babies first start walking. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

Because it was cement, I’d call my child’s doctor to see if she should be checked.

My one year baby fell down from bed on cement floor. She screamed and vomit the milk just after I hold her in my arms. After 5 minutes she fall asleep. Vomiting included only milk nothing else. Do i need to worry?

You must feel horrible. That happens to a lot of parents, especially when babies first start walking. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

Because it was cement, I’d call my child’s doctor to see if she should be checked.

No

I would be worried if there isn’t a bump at all. My friends daughter fell onto cement at 11mo and cracked her skull. There was no swelling for a few days and then a bubble appeared on her head where her spinal fluid was seeping through the crack. Get her checked. Better safe than sorry

Beth, the same thing happened with my three year daughter twice now and exactly as you described. She fell while playing on the couch. She cried for a second then went limp and her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she was drooling. I’ve made an appointment with her doctor but in the meantime want to know what this might be. Did you ever figure it out?

My 11 month daughter fell backwards on cement and was crying while I was rubbing her head for 10 minutes next thing you know she was walking again and acting normal like usual with no vomiting and no bumps .. should I still be worried

No

My daughter, who is two and a half, fell and bumped her head on the bedroom door frame. She has a big lump on her head and bruises on the side of her nose. Didn’t tame her to and e but she is totally ok. What should I have done?

Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to write back. It means a lot!

My Dr wasn’t concerned at all that it was related to the bump. She wasn’t showing any of signs related to concussion so in her situation I was confident with his assessment. That being said you know your child best and if you’re still concerned that he seems off it’s better to have him checked out again

Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to write back. It means a lot!

Thank you so very much for responding! I did take my son to the ER and they didn’t seem worried… but the more I thought about it, the more I started to get concerned. Your message is making me feel better though, thank you! When you went did they have any concerns that it could be related at all to the head bump or did they rule it out right away? Thank you again for your help!

My Dr wasn’t concerned at all that it was related to the bump. She wasn’t showing any of signs related to concussion so in her situation I was confident with his assessment. That being said you know your child best and if you’re still concerned that he seems off it’s better to have him checked out again

Hi Mel yes I brought her to the Dr and thankfully she was fine and had no concussion. She did however have the stomach flu so I was thankful that it wasn’t more to be concerned about.

Thank you so very much for responding! I did take my son to the ER and they didn’t seem worried… but the more I thought about it, the more I started to get concerned. Your message is making me feel better though, thank you! When you went did they have any concerns that it could be related at all to the head bump or did they rule it out right away? Thank you again for your help!

Did you end up getting your child checked out in this situation? My son had a similar incident and 2-3 days later became tired and threw up once. We took him to the ER and they said it was a stomach bug. I stayed home with him today and he seems better but still very tired and no fever. Any word on your child would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Hi Mel yes I brought her to the Dr and thankfully she was fine and had no concussion. She did however have the stomach flu so I was thankful that it wasn’t more to be concerned about.

Please don’t put yourself down. I’m sure you’re doing a great job, I know being a mum is hard work and you’re a superstar for having brought two tiny humans into the world!
Don’t beat yourself up too much, and I know there can be a few judgemental people ready to point fingers and tell you unnecessary things, but ignore them! We all learn from our mistakes.
As long as you’ve checked against a paediatrician and they’ve given you the al clear for baby, I think she’ll be okay in due time.
Once again don’t let negative comments get you down! You’re doing an awesome job!
#mums-support-mums!

Babies under age of 6 months should be checked by a physician, if hit on head

You should definitely get him checked out.