A skull fracture is a crack in one or more bones of the head. It takes a lot of force to cause a fracture. Skull fractures can also be accompanied by injury to the brain (concussion).
What problems can my child have because of a skull fracture?
Your child may have some of these problems, or none of them. Each child is different. Many of these are normal for a child who has a fracture.
- Head pain or headache
- Less energy and getting tired more easily
- Decreased appetite that should improve slightly each day
- A swelling or "bump" on the head that goes away over three to four days
- Cut or abrasion over the fracture
- Throwing up or feeling like throwing up (seen with a concussion)
What can I do to help my child heal?
A simple skull fracture will heal on its own. It doesn't need a cast or splint and takes as little as three to four weeks to heal completely.
If your child has a headache, these medicines can help:
- Acetaminophen. This medicine can be used after three months of age. Check with your doctor or follow the product directions for how much to give your child. You can give this medicine every four hours.
- Ibuprofen. This medicine can be used after six months of age. Check with your doctor or follow product directions for how much to give your child. You can give this medication every six hours.
- Keep your child's wound clean and dry.
- Put an antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin) on the wound three times a day (such as morning, afternoon, and bedtime) until it heals.
- If your child has stitches or staples do not put them totally in water. For example, don’t let her take a bath or swim. It’s ok for your child to shower 24 hours after the staples or stitches are put in. Staples and stitches may need to be removed five to ten days after they’re put in. Your child’s doctor will let you know.
- Watch the wound for signs of infection, including yellow drainage, redness that is expanding, pain in the area that is getting worse, and a fever. Call your child's doctor if any of these conditions arise.
Encourage your child to drink lots of liquids and eat a balanced diet. Have her avoid high sugar foods (such as candy and sweets), carbonated beverages, and caffeine.
Have your child get lots of rest. Make sure she gets at least eight hours of sleep at night. Let your child take naps or rest breaks when she’s tired, but don’t let her nap longer than two hours a day. This will help her sleep well at night.
When can my child return to activity and school?
- Please restrict your child to walking-only activities until cleared for more activity by your doctor or a concussion specialist. Call to schedule your appointment with a doctor as written on your discharge instructions from the hospital.
- Your child should not participate in contact sports for two months.
- Your child should not participate in physical education classes at school for two months.
- If your child has a headache or is tired, she may need to stay home from school for three to five days after the injury.
- Let you child return to her regular activity gradually and increase her activities slowly. If she gets worse with activity, stop the activity and speak with your
How can I prevent skull fractures in the future?
- Use proper child safety seats and other restraints
while riding in a motor vehicle.
- Teach your child to wear a properly fitted helmet for biking, skateboarding, horseback riding, and when on a scooter and always buckle the strap.
- Have your child wear a proper helmet when skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.
- Have your child wear proper protective gear and follow state guidelines when operating a motor vehicle such as, ATV or motorcycle.
When should my child see a doctor next?
Call to make an appointment for your child to see her primary care doctor within a week for a checkup.
When should I bring my child to the Emergency Department?
Bring your child to the Emergency Department immediately if she has any of the following:
- Her pupils in her eyes (the black part) are of different sizes.
- She vomits more than three times after she goes home.
- Her arms or legs are weak or she has a hard time walking.
- She is very drowsy or it’s hard to wake her up.
- She has slurred speech or she’s confused.
- She has liquid dripping from her nose or ears.
- She has a severe headache or a headache that is getting worse.
- She has seizures.
When should I take my child to see a specialist?
If your child also had a concussion and you are concerned because she still has problems from the skull fracture or problems with her performance in school, you may want to see a concussion specialist for followup testing.
To schedule an appointment with a concussion specialist, you may call:
The Rehabilitation Department at Primary Children’s Hospital
(Children 5 years old and younger)
100 North Mario Capecchi Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84113
The Rehabilitation Team at University Orthopedic Clinic
(Children older than 5 years old)
590 Wakara Way (East of Foothill Drive in Research Park)
Salt Lake City, UT 84108