Signs vs Symptoms of Injuries

What is the difference between a sign and a symptom of an injury ?

Signs of injuries are indications that another person can sense when attending an injured person,
e.g. the things that a First Aider can see, hear and feel e.g. heat.

Conversely, symptoms of injuries are information given by the injured person (also called the casualty), e.g. what he or she says to the First Aider.

* This distinction is as taught for GCSE PE, a qualification taken by UK school children aged approx.14-16 years. It may be useful for GCSE PE candidates to bear in mind this difference between a sign and a symptom of an injury in order to answer exam questions as accurately as possible. This distinction may not be made, or may not be important in some other contexts.

When is it especially important to recognize the signs of an injury (or illness) ?

It is especially important to be able to recognize the signs of injuries if / when the casualty is unconscious.

Why ? ... A person who is unconscious cannot say anything to explain to a first aider (or paramedic, or anyone else) what has happened, what hurts and where, and what he or she thinks the problem may be.

In the case of an unconscious casualty the best information available might be the physical signs of injury. However, a responsible person attending an accident or injury would normally also ask if anyone else saw or heard what happened and try to find out about both the incident and the general health (including any known medical conditions) of the injured person.

Examples of signs and symptoms of injuries:

*Examples of signs of injuries:

  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from ... description of location and type of wound
  • Swelling around the ... part of body
  • Bruises around the ... part of body
  • Abnormal shape of bone or joint ... describe it
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dilated pupils (of eyes)

*Examples of symptoms of injuries:

The casualty said ...

  • "I feel sick." or "I am about to be sick."
  • "My wrist hurts."
  • "I feel dizzy."
  • "I'm very hot."
  • "I'm very cold."

* These are general examples - not examples of signs or symptoms of any specific injury or condition.

What other words might be used (e.g. in exam questions)?

Instead of "sign of injury" some textbooks state "physical sign of injury".

Some textbooks, websites, and coursework or exam questions don't distinguish between "signs of injury" and "symptoms of injury". Instead they use other words that refer to either type of information about the injury by simply describing (or asking the student or candidate to describe) the injury, or to list indications of the injury.

This is the end of the page about signs and symptoms of injuries for GCSE Physical Education (GCSE PE).

See also the other pages in this section listed top-right and effects of exercise on muscles and effects of exercise on circulation.

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