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Loss of Consciousness

Head Injuries

When a child loses consciousness, you need to take the situation very seriously. Although unconsciousness can have sev­eral causes, head injuries are responsible for many cases. Quite often the child will regain consciousness just seconds after a blow to the head, but even so, she should still be examined by a doctor.

While most head injuries are relatively minor, contact your doctor if blood or clear fluid is draining from the ears or nose. Im­mediate examination by your physician is also necessary if your youngster fits any of the following descriptions: She complains of a headache or dizziness; acts agitated, ir­ritable, or incoherent, or exhibits a de­crease in mental alertness; breathes oddly or noisily; has convulsions; has difficulty seeing or walking; looks sweaty and pale; or vomits more than twice or after several hours have passed.

If your child wants to sleep after a minor head injury, your doctor may advise you to let her do so. During the first night, awaken the child every two hours to make sure she can be aroused and recognizes you. Check that her breathing is normal, her color is fine, the pupils of her eyes are of equal size, and she is not vomiting. If she cannot be aroused, or if any of these other signs are present, call 911 immediately.

If the head injury appears to be a serious one, call for emergency help at once. Do not move the child except to prevent addi­tional injury. If she is bleeding severely, apply pressure with gauze or a clean hand­kerchief or towel to stop the flow. Monitor her breathing and pulse until emergency help arrives.


All fainting spells require consultation with your doctor, although brief periods of un­consciousness are usually not serious. Prior to fainting, a child may feel light­headed and nauseated; then she will be­come limp and fall to the floor. These episodes typically take place when there is temporarily an inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, often related to stress, fear, or overexertion. Hot weather, pain, an empty stomach, or a peculiar odor can also sometimes cause a child to faint.

Generally, fainting spells last for just a minute or less, after which normal blood flow returns and the child regains con­sciousness. Until then, keep your child lying down with her feet slightly ele­vated.

Some fainting episodes require immedi­ate attention. Call 911 if your child remains unconscious for over two minutes, has difficulty breathing, or if she shakes or jerks while unconscious. A weak pulse or shallow breathing requires emergency care.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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