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Head Injury First Aid – What Do You Need To Know

First Aid Injured person

Table of Contents

Sharon McCulloch

Head injuries can occur when the skull or brain experiences trauma from accidents, falls, physical assault, traffic accidents and more. Unlike a broken bone, a head injury means trauma may not always be apparent if the person’s breathing. In an open head injury, the skull is fractured and damaged by direct pressure from an object that comes into contact with the brain tissue.

Unlike a visibly broken bone, a closed head injury means that the head wound may not always be obvious, as it can be internal. In a head trauma injury, the skull has suffered internal bleeding or brain damage from the impact of a blow to the head, but no outward symptoms of a head injury are apparent. Without scalp wounds or a skull fracture, a more serious head injury, especially in sports related head injuries, can be overlooked.

While not all head injuries are a result of participation in contact sports, here in Australia our sporting codes are coming under increased scrutiny for a historical culture of ignorance and even dismissal towards concussion symptoms. While it is a requirement for referees, as part of their licence, to have a first aid certificate, few may be applying their first aid head injury knowledge when identifying concussion symptoms or applying first aid in an education setting when training athletes.

Adults are more prone to serious head injury than any other age group, and these head injuries can result from falls, motor vehicle crashes, collisions, being struck by an object or aggression.

What are the Complications of Head Injuries?

After a serious head injury, there may also be noticeable neurological symptoms. These can include drowsiness, abnormal behaviour, memory loss, loss of consciousness, vomiting, severe headaches, blurred vision, unequal pupil sizes and difficulty moving certain body parts.

Although these symptoms typically occur immediately after a head trauma or injury, there is a risk that over time and repeated head injury the person develops impaired brain function and various problems later in life. One example is that individuals who have experienced a skull fracture, severe head injury or repeated concussions are more susceptible to spinal injuries, developing Alzheimer’s disease and other symptoms. that may require neurological surgery.

black and white photo of close up of a paramedic

How is a Head Injury Treated?

The treatments for a head injury can vary depending on the severity and type of head injury itself. In mild cases, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers may be recommended to manage symptoms of minor head injuries such as headaches. However, for more severe head injuries, immediate medical attention is crucial. Treatment options for minor head injury may include:

  • Stabilisation: The first step in treating a head injury is to stabilise the patient to prevent further damage. This may involve immobilising the neck and spine, controlling bleeding, and ensuring proper oxygen supply.
  • Imaging tests: Doctors may order imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI scans to assess the extent of the injury and identify any internal bleeding, fractures, or other abnormalities.
  • Medications: Depending on the specific injury, medications may be prescribed to reduce swelling, prevent infection, or manage pain.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair skull fractures, remove blood clots or haematomas, or relieve pressure on the brain caused by swelling.
  • Rehabilitation: After the initial treatment, rehabilitation may be required to help the patient regain lost functions and improve their quality of life. This may involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or cognitive therapy.

Remember D.R.S.A.B.C.D

In emergency situations, it is crucial to remember the acronym DRSABC, which outlines the steps to follow for a prompt and effective response.

  • D stands for Danger, where you assess the situation for any potential risks to yourself or others.
  • R stands for Response, which involves checking if the person is conscious and responsive.
  • S stands for Send for help, where you call emergency services or ask someone nearby to do so.
  • A stands for Airway, where you ensure that the person’s airway is clear and open.
  • B stands for Breathing, where you check if the person is breathing normally.
  • C stands for CPR, which is performed if the person is not breathing or their breathing is abnormal.
  • D stands for Defibrillator, if you have a defibrillator (AED) place the pads correctly on the person and listen for the voice prompt instructions.

By following these steps, you can provide immediate assistance and potentially save a life.

DRSABCD

First Aid for A Mild Head Injury

Assess the severity of the injury, and if the person is unconscious, bleeding heavily, or experiencing seizures, call your local emergency number – triple zero (000) for Australian residents – for emergency medical help immediately.

If the injury is mild, the injured person is conscious and there is no bleeding or other serious symptoms, you can treat the injury with your first aid skills.

  • Apply ice: Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Rest: Encourage the person to rest and avoid any strenuous activity for at least 24 hours after the injury. This will help the brain heal and prevent further damage.
  • Monitor for symptoms: observe the person for signs of worsening symptoms like a mild headache or even a severe headache, dizziness and double vision, confusion, or vomiting. If any of these symptoms occur, attend your nearest hospital emergency department and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. However, avoid aspirin as it can increase the risk of bleeding.

First Aid for A Serious Head Injury

  • The first step in providing first aid for a serious head injury is to assess the severity of the injury. This involves checking for signs of consciousness, such as responsiveness to verbal or physical stimuli, and assessing the patient’s breathing and pulse.
  • If the patient is unconscious, it is important to stabilise their head and neck to prevent further injury. This can be done by placing the patient in a supine position and using a cervical collar or other immobilisation device.
  • Controlling bleeding is also a critical step in treating a serious head injury. This can be done by applying pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Providing oxygen may also be necessary if the patient is having difficulty breathing. You can do this using a mask or other breathing device.
  • It is important to monitor the patient’s vital signs and symptoms closely and seek immediate medical attention if their condition worsens or does not improve.
  • In addition to providing immediate first aid, it is important to follow up with ongoing medical care and rehabilitation to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.

First Aid for A Concussion

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is jolted or shaken inside the skull. It can result from a car accident, a fall or any other incident or knock to the person’s head that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth. Administering first aid promptly after a concussion is crucial to ensure the person’s safety and aid in their recovery.

  • The first step in administering first aid for a concussion is to assess the situation. Check if the person is conscious and breathing. If they are unconscious or not breathing, call emergency services immediately and begin CPR if you are trained to do so.
  • If the person is conscious, encourage them to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It is important to keep them still and prevent any further injury. If they are wearing a helmet, do not remove it unless necessary for their breathing or if they are vomiting.
  • Next, monitor the person’s vital signs, such as their pulse and breathing rate. If their breathing becomes irregular or stops, begin CPR immediately.
  • Place a cloth-wrapped cold compress or ice pack on the injured area. This can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. However, do not apply ice directly to the skin, as it can actually cause frostbite with direct contact.
  • Keep a close eye on the person for any signs of worsening symptoms. These may include severe headaches, repeated vomiting, seizures, confusion, slurred speech or loss of consciousness. If any of these symptoms occur call triple zero (000) or your local emergency number immediately.

It is important to note that a concussion can have delayed symptoms, the person’s condition should be monitored for the next 24 to 48 hours. Advise them to rest and avoid any activities that may worsen their symptoms, such as physical exertion, bright lights or loud noises.

Remember, administering first aid for a concussion or a spinal cord injury is just the initial step. It is essential to seek medical evaluation and follow-up care to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of head injuries.

First Aid for A Traumatic Brain Injury

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is jolted or shaken inside the skull. It can result from a blow to the head, a fall or any other incident that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth.

Administering advanced first aid training promptly after a concussion is crucial to ensure the person’s safety and aid in their recovery.

  • First, assess the situation – conscious and breathing? Are there any other immediate threats to their safety or yours? If they are unconscious or not breathing, call emergency services immediately and begin CPR if you’re trained to do so.
  • If the person is conscious, encourage them to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It’s important to keep them still to prevent any further cranial jostling. If they are wearing a helmet, do not remove it unless necessary for their breathing or if they are vomiting.
  • Next, monitor the person’s vital signs, such as their pulse and breathing rate. If their breathing becomes irregular or stops, begin CPR immediately.
  • Place a cold compress or ice pack covered with a cloth on the affected area. This can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. However, make sure not to apply ice directly to the skin, as it can cause frostbite.
  • Keep a close eye on the person for any signs of worsening symptoms. These may include severe headaches, repeated vomiting, seizures, confusion, slurred speech or loss of consciousness. If any of these symptoms occur see a doctor as soon as possible or call triple zero (000).
  • It is important to note that a concussion can have delayed symptoms, so monitor the person’s condition for the next 24 to 48 hours. Advise them to rest and avoid any activities that may worsen their symptoms like physical exertion, bright lights or loud noises.

Remember, administering first aid for a concussion is just the initial step. It is essential to seek medical evaluation and follow-up care to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

The content on this website offers general insights regarding health conditions and potential treatments. It is not intended as, and should not be construed as, medical advice. If you are facing a medical emergency, dial 000 immediately and follow the guidance provided.

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