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Know the Pitfalls!

Signs, symptoms and pitfalls

You need to understand several essential things, including possible pitfalls following trauma.

Please see the checklist if you live alone and have sustained a head injury.

poster with GBIA logo and picture of a control tower in the head. A list of brain injury outcomes.Signs and Symptoms

Physical and Sensory Problems:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Feelings of dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Visual disturbances – blurred or double vision, dislike of bright lights
  • Being easily upset by loud noises

Sleep disturbances:

  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Behavioural and Mood Changes:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Easily angered
  • Feeling frustrated or impatient
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity and self-control problems
  • Feeling depressed, tearful or anxious

Cognitive Problems:

  • Feeling confused
  • Difficulties with attention and concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulties with problem-solving
  • Taking longer to think
  • Difficulty understanding others or instructions


No two brain injuries are the same, which means that the effects of brain injuries vary greatly from person to person. The signs can be subtle or misunderstood by anyone without experience.

If you suspect a traumatic or acquired brain injury, it is essential to immediately contact the injured person’s doctor or go to the accident and emergency department at your nearest hospital.

As well as the severity and type of injury, the age and general health of a person, and many other factors, can impact how well they recover.

Diet and lifestyle influence healing, and you should speak to your doctor or a nutritionist about things you can do to help yourself.

Also, we have a ‘Positive Health’ section to support your understanding of how your lifestyle choices can support healing.


We recommend contacting the Child Brain Injury Trust or another specialised organisation if your child has been hurt.

Children’s brains are more ‘plastic’ and better able to rewire. However, this knowledge mustn’t set an expectation. A child can struggle into adulthood and need careful observation and support throughout their educational years.

Watch out for hormonal changes or imbalance. Damage to the pituitary gland can be a contributing factor in depression. Children and young adults are also more susceptible to mental health problems when they are under pressure sitting tests and exams.

It is essential to listen to children and to help them describe their struggles. Sometimes children stop telling adults how they feel because they don’t think they are understood.

Possible pitfalls to be aware of:

Shortage of doctorsStaff levels in many emergency rooms are more skeletal during the weekend. These shortages can exacerbate problems with being given a diagnosis, assessment, advice or treatment. If you are in any doubt about a diagnosis, worsening symptoms or the information provided, either see your GP or return to the A&E department.


Doctor with lack of knowledge pointing in each directionEmergency medical personnel and general practitioners don’t always have specialised knowledge of brain injury. If you are concerned, ask to see a neurological specialist or, if one is not on duty, ask for a referral appointment.


Dismissed by doctor pointing to go awayA neurological specialist may not be available to see you (or a loved one), which can result in people with head injuries not being referred for a CT or MRI scan. Although technology is improving, concussions do not appear on a CT scan. Do not allow CT results to dictate diagnosis without being very clear about what to expect from them. CT and MRI can miss the diagnosis of brain injury. CT scans in ER rule out the need for neurosurgical intervention.


Sign to emergency departmentSome brain injuries are overlooked or not given priority when other injuries take precedence. Voice your concerns if symptoms develop or persist.


Rejected by DoctorEven when there is a diagnosis of the initial injury or insult, no information or treatment will likely be given. Ask for information and also the name of any local brain injury organisation. If symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, ask for a referral from your GP so that you can speak to a neurological specialist, such as a neuropsychologist. It is best to address a brain injury as early on as possible.


doctors don't see, hear or speakIf a brain injury is considered to be a concussion or ‘mild’ traumatic brain injury, you might struggle to get medical support. Be prepared to be assertive if symptoms persist for longer than three months.


Three monkey's doctorYou may not be given information to take home with you or a follow-up appointment and may worry about assessing what to do next. If symptoms worsen, you should seek urgent medical help. If symptoms persist but don’t get worse, speak to your doctor

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