How do you know whether you or a loved one has sustained a brain injury and should be seen by a doctor?

In some situations, it’s clear. There’s been an obvious accident or event that has caused the patient to lose consciousness, or to have visible and perceptible injuries. In these situations the patient is often rushed to the emergency room where, after the doctor has stabilized the patient, the brain will be assessed for injury.

But what do you do in those gray area situations in which injuries are not obviously and immediately evident? For example, a blow to the head that causes a couple of seconds of dizziness before the individual feels fine again, or the toddler that falls and hits his or her head but then gets up and plays as normal. How do you know when it’s necessary to see a doctor?

When it comes to head injuries, it’s best to play it safe. Look out for the following symptoms, which may occur immediately after the accident, or several hours or days after:

  • Loss of consciousness, even if brief
  • Changes in pupils; unequal size pupils
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness, lethargy
  • Confusion, frustration, irritability
  • Problems with memory
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Speech and language issues, including slurred speech
  • Clear or bloody fluid draining from the nose, mouth, or ears
  • Inability to move one or more limbs; paralysis
  • Problems with sight, taste, hearing, or smell
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slow or erratic breathing
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe head pain
  • Seizures

If you or a loved one exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away.