A headache is not unusual immediately following a blow to the head.
The headaches may come and go but usually resolve within 4 weeks after the
injury. As long as the headaches are getting better, they are not likely to
represent a serious problem.
Headaches are classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
Mild: A mild headache
improves or goes away completely with home treatment, medicine, or rest. It
may return when the medicine wears off.
Moderate: A moderate headache improves with home treatment,
medicine, or rest, but it never completely goes away. You are always aware
that your headache is present.
severe headache is incapacitating. Home treatment, medicine, and rest do not
relieve this headache.
An ongoing headache that is getting worse after
a head injury may be caused by swelling or bleeding within
or around the brain or between the brain and the covering of the brain (subdural hematoma). The bleeding may be rapid or slow.
Symptoms may develop within minutes, hours, or occasionally weeks after the
Falls occur more frequently in babies, older adults, and people with
dementia or alcohol or drug abuse problems.
Determining if the person has had a head injury may be difficult or delayed
since he or she may not be able to tell you about the fall or injury. A
subdural hematoma may develop immediately and cause obvious problems, but if
the bleeding is slow, symptoms may not develop for days or even weeks.
A head injury may cause a small amount of bleeding within
the skull that does not cause symptoms for days or even weeks after the injury.
After a head injury, a small blood clot may form and draw fluid from the
tissues around it, which makes the clot slowly get bigger. The increasing size
of the clot causes a slow increase in the pressure within the skull and the
surrounding brain tissue. Usually the first symptom of the increased pressure
is a new, persistent, and increasingly severe headache. Confusion and
sleepiness may also be present.
A persistent headache that is accompanied by other symptoms of a
concussion, such as drowsiness and personality
changes, is more serious. As the pressure increases around the brain, other
symptoms may develop quickly, including dilation of a pupil or paralysis on one
side of the body.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.