Having worked as an Emergency Care Nurse for the past decades, I have seen a fair share of accidents involving head injuries and concussions. A person may have a head injury if he/she was struck in the head, experienced a sports injury, or involved in a car/motor vehicle accident.
Often by the time the victim reaches the ER, they may be unresponsive, in a coma, or worst, dead.
People don’t realize how fragile our brain is. Even with minor injuries, our brain can have rips, tears or bruising. Every time we hit our heads, we need to pay attention.
Head injury, also known as traumatic brain injury (TBI), is a blow to the head from an external force that could be caused by an attack, a fall, or an accident. Concussion, on the other hand, is a mild and less serious type of TBI.
After a head injury, there may be swelling in the brain tissue and the layers surrounding the brain. It is important to note that symptoms may not exhibit right away, and can develop slowly over several hours or days. Don’t be fooled by what you see on the outside of your head. The head may have no visible injury, but problems could result from bleeding or swelling inside the skull.
How to tell if a head injury is critical?
Severe head injuries should be suspected if the victim started showing more serious signs including loss of consciousness, memory loss, nausea/vomiting, dizziness and change in vision. As the initial impact of the injury begins to put pressure on the brain, the person’s health status starts to deteriorate.
Traumatic brain injuries are much more common than most people think. An estimated 2.8 million head injuries occur in the United State every year. The finding shows that in every five minutes, someone dies from brain trauma.
In 2009, the American actress Natasha Richardson died due to a head injury after falling onto a snow-covered ground in a ski resort in Canada. After the fall, Richardson is still talking, unscathed, even joking about the incident. Not until hours later, when she started having headaches, did the seriousness of the situation became clearly visible. The incident was all over the news that raises awareness of brain injury as a silent epidemic.
It’s tough to distinguish a serious brain injury from a concussion, especially if you are untrained in doing so. Learning to recognise the symptoms of TBI and be able to apply first aid can save a person’s life in danger.
First Aid for Head Injury
The standard protocol for applying first aid to head injury is to follow DRSABCD.
- Dial 000 and request for an Ambulance
- Check the person’s airway, breathing, and circulation
- Firmly support the head & neck
- Treat any possible wounds
- Stay with them until emergency medical services arrive
Here in Australia, over 700,000 people have acquired a brain injury. The growing number of incidents gave birth to research that reveals the importance of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and first aid in improving outcomes for head injury patients. Immediate first aid and medical care can avoid the risk of potential long-term injury and save the person’s life.