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Delayed Head Trauma Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, MD · Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 22, 2021

    Delayed Head Trauma Symptoms: What You Need to Know

    Accidents can happen all the time, and the human body has amazing ways to cope with accident-related injuries. However, the head can be particularly vulnerable to injuries because of how easily a person can fall from a high place or receive a blow to the head. Learn about what to do after being hit in the head and the important delayed head trauma symptoms to watch out for. 

    What is a head injury?

    The term “head injury” is a broad one, and can refer to a variety of injuries and trauma that can cause damage to any part of the head such as the skull, scalp, brain, and even the tissues that aren’t located on the surface. 

    Types of head injuries

    Different types of head injuries can damage the different parts of the head. However, most head injuries can cause long-term effects and even death in some cases. Regardless of the type, one should always take extra precaution during high-risk situations in order to avoid accidents. 

    Below are some of the types of head injuries:


    A concussion is probably one of the mild types of head injuries, although they can still have plenty of negative side effects. Usually, a person can get a concussion from violent shaking, a sudden blow to the head, or an abrupt, snapping movement (whiplash). Concussions may cause a person to lose consciousness, or feel dazed and disoriented. The effects of a concussion can last for a few minutes or hours after the traumatic event.

    Contusion (Intracerebral hematoma)

    Contusions result from head trauma that has caused bleeding or swelling of the brain tissue. 


    A coup-contrecoup injury happens when the blow or trauma to the head is so great that it causes bruising on the brain where it was directly hit and on the other side. This happens when the brain slams onto the other side of the skull.

    Diffuse Axonal

    When a head injury is caused by extreme shaking or a sudden rotating movement, then it’s called a diffuse axonal injury. These types of injuries happen because the brain cannot keep up with the skull’s movement, resulting in tearing of the brain tissue.


    Injuries like stab or gunshot wounds may penetrate the skull and brain tissue. It’s further complicated when foreign objects are introduced into the brain.

    Symptoms of Brain Injury After Hitting Head

    The symptoms of head injury

    Symptoms of head injuries can vary depending on the severity of the injury and which parts of the head have been affected. It’s important to note that these symptoms may not be the same for all people and that it’s always best to consult a medical professional.

    Immediate symptoms to look out for that indicate a mild head injury are the following:

  • A headache
  • A bruise or a bump on the head which may be swollen or appear red
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Having trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Feeling fatigued or tired
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Suddenly losing balance
  • Oversensitivity to light or noise
  • Suddenly forgetting what happened that led to the injury
  • The symptoms listed above may appear immediately after a head injury and may subside after a few hours.

    However, delayed head trauma symptoms may also appear. Some symptoms of head injuries that can show up a few hours after the injury are the following:

    • Changes in mood or personality such as irritability
    • Having trouble remembering things
    • Experiencing changes in smells or tastes
    • Light sensitivity
    • Sensitivity to noise
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Depression
    • Psychological programs

    Some of the complications following head trauma are the following 

    • Post-traumatic headaches
    • Post-traumatic vertigo
    • Post-concussion syndrome
    • Cumulative effects
    • Second impact syndrome

    However, severe injuries of the head may cause much more serious symptoms to appear. If you or a person experiences a combination of the symptoms listed below, contact emergency services immediately.

    Symptoms of moderate or severe head injuries are the following:

    • Having a deep wound on the scalp
    • Blood or fluid leaking from the ear
    • Collapsing or losing consciousness
    • Having incoherent or slurred speech
    • Having a seizure
    • Not being able to walk

    First aid for head injuries 

    Sometimes, accidents can happen in areas where emergency medical services are not immediately available. Doing the correct first-aid for a head injury can save a person’s life. 

    If you’re involved in an accident and capable of delivering first-aid for someone who has suffered a serious head injury, make sure to do the following:

    1. Perform CPR if a person loses consciousness and isn’t breathing. Start by doing chest compressions.
    2. If a person is breathing but isn’t conscious, make sure to support the head and neck and keep them in line with the spine until help arrives.
    3. If there is bleeding on the head, make sure to constantly apply pressure with a piece of piece of gauze or clean cloth. Avoid moving the head.
    4. For skull fractures, avoid applying pressure. Any manipulation or foreign object may do more harm than good if done by an untrained person. 
    5. Avoid touching the area of the wound before it has been properly evaluated by a medical professional.
    6. If an object has penetrated the skull, don’t attempt to remove it.

    Prevention of head injuries 

    Prevention is always better than cure and in the case of head injuries, prevention could mean avoiding a life-threatening accident. If you’d like to avoid accidents that may cause head injuries, make sure to follow these tips:

    • Always wear the appropriate protective gear when engaging in leisure activities or sports.
    • Never forget to wear your seatbelt in vehicles.
    • Check your home for any uneven flooring or slippery surfaces that may cause falls in the future.
    • Never leave children unattended near windows or high places.

    Key Takeaways

    Head injuries and their symptoms depend on the type of damage inflicted on the brain, skull, scalp, or other parts of the head. When it comes to immediate or delayed head trauma symptoms, always consult your doctor. 

    Learn more about the Brain and the Nervous System here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Nicole Aliling, MD

    Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

    Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 22, 2021

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