What is skull fracture?

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Skull fracture: Overview

A skull fracture is a break in one of the bones of your head. A fracture may be a hairline crack, or it can be what is called a depressed fracture. A skull fracture can injure the brain. If you have a cut in the skin over a skull fracture, bacteria can enter the skull and may cause an infection.

Sometimes, signs of a brain injury do not show up until days or weeks after a skull fracture. For that reason, you need to watch for severe headaches, or blood or fluid leaking from your nose or ears. Ask someone to watch for confusion or other behavior changes you may have.

You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.

How can you care for yourself when you have a skull fracture?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions. You will be told if you need someone to watch you closely for the next 24 hours or longer.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • You may sleep. If your doctor tells you to, have another adult check you at the suggested times to make sure you are able to wake up, recognize the other adult, and act normally.
  • Take it easy for the next few days or longer if you are not feeling well.
  • Do not drink any alcohol for at least the next 24 hours.

What is postconcussion syndrome?

If you have had a mild concussion, you may have a mild headache or just feel "not quite right." These symptoms are normal and usually go away on their own. It can take a few days to a few weeks for the symptoms to fade. Occasionally, after a concussion you may feel as if you are not functioning as well as you did before the injury; you may develop new symptoms. This is called postconcussion syndrome. You may:

  • Have changes in your ability to solve problems, think, concentrate, or remember.
  • Have headaches.
  • Have dizziness, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness that prevents standing or walking.
  • Have changes in your sleep patterns, such as not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time.
  • Have changes in your personality.
  • Lack interest in your daily activities.
  • Become easily angered or anxious for no clear reason.
  • Have changes in your sex drive.

It may take several weeks to many months for these symptoms to go away, but you should mention any new symptoms to your doctor.

Skull fracture: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are confused or you do not know where you are.
  • You are very sleepy or hard to wake up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new watery (not like mucus from a cold) or bloody fluid coming from your nose or ears.
  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • You have bruises behind one ear or around both eyes within 24 hours after a head injury.
  • You have new weakness or numbness in any part of your body.
  • You have slurred speech.
  • The pupils of your eyes are different sizes.
  • You have new vision problems.
  • You have trouble walking.
  • You vomit.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your headaches get worse.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.