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Head Injury: What to Do if Your Child Loses Consciousness

​​​By: Carlyn Patterson Gentile MD, PhD, FAAP & Marissa DiGiovine, MD, FAAP 

Head injury is one of the most common causes of loss of consciousness in children. If your child experiences loss of consciousness (is "knocked out"​) following a head injury, you should always take it seriously and talk with a health care professional. 

Most of the time, head injuries are minor, and children only lose consciousness for a few seconds. Even so, children should be examined by a health care professional. They should also be watched for changes that point to a more severe head injury. 

When should I call 911?

Call 911 if your child loses consciousness after a head injury such as a bump, hit or jolt to the head, and ​

  • you are concerned for your child's immediate safety, or

  • your child is experiencing ANY of the following symptoms:

    • Unable to be woken up

    • Difficulty breathing or unusual breathing

    • Convulsions

When should I take my child to the emergency department?

If your child has ANY of the following symptoms, you should have your child examined immediately:

  • The period of unconsciousness was longer than 5 seconds

  • Vomiting two or more times, or hours after the injury

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Irritability or fussiness

  • Confusion

  • Bruising or bleeding around the scalp or eyes

  • Clear fluid coming out of the nose

  • Difficulty walking

  • Difficulty speaking 

Is it ok to let my child sleep after a head injury?

It is important to discuss the head injury with a healthcare professional. If the health care professional has evaluated your child and feels they are unlikely to have a more severe head injury, they may say it is ok to let your child to sleep. 


Don't hesitate to talk with your child's pediatrician if you have any concerns about their health or safety. 

More information

​About Dr. Gentile

Carlyn Patterson Gentile MD, PhD, FAAP is a child neurologist and headache specialist and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. She has a special focus in pediatric concussion and post-traumatic headache. She is a member of the Neurology Special Interest Group of the American Academy of Pediatrics.​

​About Dr. DiGiovine

Marissa DiGiovine, MD, FAAP is a pediatric neurologist who subspecializes in epilepsy. She currently holds the position of Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and is an Advisory Committee member of the National Coordinating Center for Epilepsy, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neurology, and a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Mentorship.​

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neurology (Copyright © 2023)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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