Head trauma: First aid

To give first aid to a person who has head trauma, call 911 or your local emergency number. Any of the following symptoms may indicate a serious head injury:


  • Severe head or facial bleeding.
  • Bleeding or fluid leakage from the nose or ears.
  • Vomiting.
  • Severe headache.
  • Change in consciousness for more than a few seconds.
  • Black-and-blue discoloration below the eyes or behind the ears.
  • Not breathing.
  • Confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Weakness or an inability to use an arm or leg.
  • Unequal pupil size.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Seizures.


  • Any of the symptoms for adults.
  • Persistent crying.
  • Refusal to eat.
  • Bulging in the soft spot on the front of the head of infants.
  • Repeated vomiting.

Administer the following first-aid steps while waiting for emergency medical help to arrive:

  • Keep the person still. The injured person should lie down with the head and shoulders slightly elevated. Don't move the person unless necessary. Avoid moving the person's neck. If the person is wearing a helmet, don't remove it.
  • Stop any bleeding. Apply firm pressure to the wound with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. But don't apply direct pressure to the wound if you suspect a skull fracture.
  • Watch for changes in breathing and alertness. If the person shows no signs of circulation — no breathing, coughing or movement — begin CPR.

Head trauma that results in concussion symptoms need to be evaluated by a medical professional. Concussion symptoms include nausea, unsteadiness, headaches or difficulty concentrating.

Last Updated Feb 18, 2023

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