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Skull Fracture: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

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. Your family can help watch for confusion or other behaviour changes you may have.

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

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • 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.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • 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.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions. He or she will tell you 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) or until the swelling goes down. 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 post-concussion 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 post-concussion syndrome. You may:

  • Have changes in your ability to solve problems, think, concentrate, or remember.
  • Have headaches.
  • Have dizziness, light-headedness, 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.

When should you call for help?

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 or nurse advice line 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 trouble walking.
  • You vomit.

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

  • Your headaches get worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.