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Goose eggs and head bumps: What to do when your noggin takes a knock

From toddlerdom through adulthood, lumps, bumps, and bruises are a simple rite of passage. But when a knock on the head blooms into a bulging goose egg, it can be alarming. And for older adults, it could mean a trip to the ER.

Most often, goose eggs and other head bumps aren't a cause for concern. But it's important to know when to reach for an ice pack and when to seek medical care.

What causes a goose egg or head bump?

A goose egg is basically a bruise, or hematoma, on the forehead or scalp. But what makes a bruise quickly morph into something more dramatic?

There's a bounty of small blood vessels in and under the scalp (just ask any parent who has witnessed the excess of blood that comes from even a minor cut to a little one's head). When those blood vessels are ruptured by even a slight bump and the skin is not broken, the pooled blood pushes outward and creates an egg-shaped protrusion.   

Goose egg bumps can be especially prominent in young children, based on the simple fact that they have less space on their heads for blood to collect.

How do you treat a goose egg bump?

In most cases, goose eggs can be filed under the category of “looks worse than it is.” In other words, most bumps to the head are relatively minor and seldom cause serious problems.

If a child or adult (under the age of 65) is alert and responsive after a head bump, it's likely the injury is mild. When this is the case, home treatment will help with the discomfort:

  • To reduce swelling, apply an ice or cold pack wrapped in a towel to the area for 15-20 minutes, remove it for 30 minutes and reapply. Try this for a day or two, several times a day. Swelling will usually begin to go down within a few hours, but it may take up to a week for the goose egg to go away. 
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) will help alleviate headache pain. Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, unless prescribed by a medical provider. 
  • Following a head bump, the individual should be observed for 24 to 48 hours to see if any symptoms develop that could indicate something more serious.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend you seek medical care for anything more than a light bump to your child's head. If your kiddo has no symptoms or symptoms are minor, such as a mild headache, visit your nearby Indigo.

How do you know if a goose egg bump on the head is serious?

Most times, a goose egg on the head is nothing to worry about. But if a bump to the head is more than minor, it may cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury.

You should head to the nearest ER when:

  • A head blow or knock to the head causes unconsciousness, confusion, or disorientation.
  • There are any signs of: 
    • Persistent or worsening headache.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Vision problems.
    • Mood changes, such as irritabilityImbalance.
    • Unusual drowsiness.
    • Seizures.

It's important to note that signs of a concussion don't always appear right away. Symptoms can develop days or weeks after a head injury.

Adults 65 years or older should also seek immediate medical care if a goose egg emerges after a head knock or bump. Older adults are more likely to suffer serious symptoms from head trauma, even if it seems minor.

  • Aging causes blood vessels that connect the brain to the skull to shrink, thin, and tighten. Even minor head trauma can cause a bruise to the brain that doesn't stop bleeding the way it would in a younger adult or child.
  • Adults who take blood thinners, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory medications are also more susceptible to brain bleeds.

Head-to-toe care at Indigo

If you or your kiddo takes a knock and a bulging goose egg has you worried, a quick and convenient visit to your nearby Indigo will help alleviate your concerns. We're here 8 am to 8 pm every day to treat most minor injuries and illnesses—including bumps and bruises.

One of our friendly clincians will conduct a neurological exam to assess the injury and rule out any brain trauma. If there are any red flags, you'll be referred to a higher level of care for testing and treatment.

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