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How to Care for Head Injuries in Northern California


There are many types of head injuries, ranging from severe to minor. They can occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults, and accidents at work or during physical activities. It is important to know which injuries require urgent medical care, and to act quickly when necessary. 

Head injuries can involve the brain or skull, or only affect the scalp. They can be classified as “open,” meaning the skull is broken, or “closed” (skull is intact). Concussions, skull fractures, scalp wounds, and brain hemorrhages are all examples of head injuries. 

Most head injuries should be evaluated by a doctor. If you sustained a head injury in Northern California, go to a Dignity Health North State emergency room. Use our InQuicker tool to alert us to your pending arrival. Call 911 if the injury requires immediate medical care.

 

Common Head Injury Symptoms

The type of head injury determines which symptoms you may feel. For example, bleeding is the main symptom of scalp wounds. There are many blood vessels in your scalp, and a wound can produce a lot of bleeding. 

If you have sustained an internal head injury, you may or may not experience symptoms right away. There may not be any visible signs of trauma, making it difficult to assess how serious your injury is without medical evaluation. 

Internal head injury symptoms can include amnesia, confusion, and changes in mental functions. You may also experience headaches, dizziness, memory problems, personality changes, difficulty concentrating and problems sleeping. 

Call 911 or go to a Dignity Health North State emergency facility for the following symptoms: 

  • Blood or clear fluid coming from the nose, ear, or mouth
  • Difficulty breathing, speaking, or seeing
  • Seizures
  • Serious wounds
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Severe headache or stiff neck
  • Loss of consciousness, even for a short time
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness or inability to move a limb
  • Sudden vision problems such as decreased vision or double vision
  • Unequal pupils

 

How to Treat Head Injuries

The type and severity of the head injury determines treatment. Superficial wounds and other minor injuries often heal on their own or with home care. 

If you observe a severe head injury, call 911 and follow these guidelines: 

  • Apply direct pressure to the wound, unless you see a fracture. Do not clean or rinse the wound, it can intensify bleeding. Apply a sterile bandage instead. 
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not move the person. Do not pick up a child. Help them remain still until emergency help comes.
  • Do not remove anything lodged in the wound or head.
  • Do not remove a helmet.
  • Begin CPR if you cannot find a pulse or there is no breathing. Continue until help arrives.

Want to be prepared to help in an emergency? Register for a Dignity Health North State basic life support class

Dignity Health North State provides emergency care for severe head injuries in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.