Head injuries are always a concern, especially for a trained first aider. From frequent bumps and tumbles as children to slips and falls as adults – they are so common. But how do we go about treating someone for a head injury that is more severe?

It isn’t something we often give a second thought – as we have all witnessed minor cases of head injuries before. But in the event of an emergency, we want to highlight the three different types that you should look out for…

Possible Concussion Signs and Symptoms To Look For:

  • Briefly unconscious
  • Dizzy and confused
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Mild ‘all over’ headache
  • Paler than usual, clammy skin
  • Loss of memory (amnesia)

Any casualty that has sustained a head injury needs to be carefully looked after and monitored, especially if they have become unconscious.

Severe Cases of Head Injuries

In more severe cases, there may be damage to the brain. It is likely that a casualty with a head injury may also have a neck and back (spinal) injury. Therefore it is essential to minimise their movement and apply the same rules that you would when treating a neck or back (spinal) injury. Casualties with head injuries are often confused or irrational, and therefore they may be difficult to help. Concussion differs slightly to a standard head injury, as this is where the brain has been shaken within the skull. Noticing the difference between these two may help when it comes to treating the casualty.


  • Sit the casualty in a quiet place
  • Stay with the casualty to monitor them
  • They should start to improve, but if their condition becomes worse call an ambulance
  • Treat any wounds
  • If the casualty seems drowsy, their level of consciousness is declining, or they develop a severe headache – call an ambulance
  • Monitor for signs of compression (compression is when pressure is placed on the brain. This might be caused by bleeding or swelling inside the head (such as a stroke), or an infection (such as meningitis).

How to Identify Compression – Possible Signs and Symptoms

  • Possible recent head injury
  • Declining levels of consciousness or drowsiness
  • Intense headache
  • Flushed (red) dry skin and high temperature
  • Unequal pupils
  • Fitting 
  • Slow, noisy breathing


  • If the casualty is conscious, lay them down, elevating their head and shoulders
  • Reassure the casualty
  • Call an ambulance
  • Nothing to eat or drink
  • Monitor DR’s A&B checks
  • Be prepared to use your emergency plan

Being mindful of these different types of head injury is really important – as symptoms and recommended treatments do vary. The severity of the head injury will dictate whether you need to treat wounds, minimise movement, or call for an ambulance. Familiarising yourself with the processes to follow could prove invaluable one day.

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