Head injury

If someone has a head injury, they should be under regular observation for 24 hours. This means that another adult should stay with them to check their symptoms.

If you're looking after a family member, friend or a person you care for, make sure they can:

  • tell you their name
  • tell you where they are
  • tell you who you are
  • move all their limbs normally

Symptoms after a mild head injury

Common symptoms after a head injury are:

  • headaches
  • feeling dizzy
  • feeling tired
  • feeling irritable
  • poor concentration and memory

It is important to see a GP if these symptoms are severe or last more than 2 weeks.

Most people's symptoms get better within 6 weeks.

Go straight to A&E if the person with the head injury:

  • is drowsy (sleepy) or confused
  • finds it difficult to understand what is happening, speak, read or write
  • is being sick (vomiting)
  • has a persistent (long-lasting) or severe headache
  • cannot see well (vision problems)
  • has weak arms or legs, or cannot feel them
  • has fits, convulsions (shaking movements that they cannot control) or a blackout
  • has blood or fluid coming from their ears or nose

Recovering after your head injury

It is important to have lots of rest and take simple painkillers (such as paracetamol) if you need them. 

Check that the painkillers do not react with any other medicines you take and follow the instructions on the packet.


  • make sure you have plenty of rest and sleep
  • take painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen (if you are allowed), for your headache
  • go back to work gradually as you start to get better

Do not

  • do not drink any alcohol for the first 48 hours
  • do not operate machinery or drive a car, motorbike or bicycle until your concentration is back to normal
  • do not use computers or watch television for more than 30 minutes at a time because this can make your symptoms worse

Resource number: 5118/VER1
Last reviewed: January 2021
Currently under review

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

Emergency department (A&E), St Thomas’ Hospital, phone 020 7188 2127

Urgent Care Centre at Guy’s Hospital, phone 020 7188 8088

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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