Amid the thrills and spills of the winter olympics there was a timely reminder of the importance of wearing a helmet when skiing and snowboarding. Sarka Pancochova from the Czech Republic fell while taking her first jump, landing on her head with so much force that her helmet was cracked in two. Thanks to the helmet, she walked away, but from an outdoor first aid point of view we thought it might be timely to refresh everyone’s memory on what to look out for in case of a bang on the head...
Remember – head injuries can be more serious than they first seem:
If there is damage inside the skull, the external symptoms may be minimal at first, so stick to the golden rule – any change in conscious level, associated with a bang to the head – get checked out at the hospital…
What to look out for:
Key symptoms, include:
- Headaches, dizziness and nausea
- Unequal pupils
- Balance or visual disturbance
- Memory loss
- Fluid coming from ears or nose
- Changes in mood / behaviour
These symptoms can be subtle and may develop over time, so you may see none of them intially. Monitoring is therefore the crucial thing – and if in doubt, get checked out.
Other important symptoms are shown is this table along with important do’s and don’ts courtesy on the Headway charity.
If you experience any of the symptoms above in the days following a head injury you should seek medical attention.
Dos and Don’ts
- DO make sure you stay within reach of a telephone and medical help in the next few days
- DO have plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations
- DO show this factsheet to a friend or family member who can keep an eye on your condition
- DO take painkillers such as paracetamol for headaches
- DON’T stay at home alone for 48 hours after leaving hospital
- DON’T drink alcohol until you feel better
- DON’T take aspirin or sleeping tablets without consulting a doctor
- DON’T return to work until you feel ready
- DON’T play any contact sport for at least three weeks without consulting your doctor
- DON’T return to driving until you feel you have recovered. If in doubt consult your doctor.
The Headway charity provides hugely valuable resources and information on head injuries including more on the effects of brain injury, and a collection of further resources on recognising sport concussion injuries.
This article can only cover the basics – it is no substitute for attending a full training course to learn how to carry out effective first aid and is obviously no substitute for seeing a medical professional in the case of a head injury – remember, if in doubt, get checked out.