Health Library

First Aid for Head Wounds in Children

Topic Overview

Emergency treatment is needed if a cut is deep and may have penetrated through the skull. Call 911 or other emergency services immediately and:

  • Do not apply pressure if the skull is deformed. Signs of deformity may include sunken areas (other than the normal soft spots), bone fragments, or exposed brain.
  • Do not attempt to stop the blood or clear fluid drainage from the nose or ears.
  • Do not remove an object that penetrates the skull.

The following steps will protect the wound and protect you from another person's blood if emergency care is not needed.

  • Before you try to stop the bleeding:
    • Wash your hands well with soap and water (if available).
    • Put on latex medical gloves before applying pressure to the wound. If gloves are not available, use many layers of fabric or plastic bags between your hand and the wound.
    • Use your bare hands to apply pressure only as a last resort.
  • Have the child lie down.
  • Remove any visible objects from the scalp or wound but do not remove an object that has penetrated the skull. Do not attempt to clean out the wound.
  • Remove or cut clothing from around the wound. Remove any jewelry from the general area of the head or neck.
  • Press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth or the cleanest material available. If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.
  • Apply steady, direct pressure and elevate the area for a full 15 minutes. Use a clock—15 minutes can seem like a long time. Resist the urge to peek after a few minutes to see whether bleeding has stopped. If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one without lifting the first. If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.
  • If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure while getting help. Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.
  • Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes. Use the Check Your Symptoms section to determine your next steps.

Watch for signs of shock.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised April 5, 2012

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