Head and neck injuries: When to go to the ER

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Head and neck injuries can range from mild to life threatening, so it is important to identify which symptoms are worrisome in order to receive the proper care.

Neck injuries can occur from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or sudden trauma. Minor neck injuries can generally be treated with rest and ice. Critical neck injuries are often the result of whiplash from a car accident, a fall from a significant height, a blow to the neck or head, sport-related injuries, or external pressure applied to neck. This type of injury may cause severe pain, swelling, dizziness, and numbness. It is important to get immediate emergency care if you suspect a severe neck injury, especially one that could cause damage to the spinal cord.

Head injuries are caused by trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain and can be very dangerous. Concussions are the most common type of head injury and occur when the brain is jarred hard enough to bounce against the skull. A concussion can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and have long-term effects if left untreated. Other traumatic brain injuries include a contusion, which is a bruise on the brain that causes swelling or a hematoma, and skull fractures.

Head injuries that appear to be more serious and require emergency medical treatment include warning signs such as:

- Convulsions

- Confusion

- Loss of consciousness

- Distorted facial features

- Slurred speech

- Severe headache

- Vomiting

- Inability to move one or more limbs

- Low breathing rate

- Memory loss

- Double or fuzzy vision