A concussion is a mild brain injury caused by a blow or sudden jolt to the head. It disturbs the way your brain works and can make you feel confused or disoriented. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sadness.
A doctor will check your child’s vision, hearing, and memory. They may also order a CT scan to look at your child’s brain after injury. Treatments include getting plenty of sleep, returning to a routine, avoiding activities that can cause concussions, and avoiding busy environments.
Concussion symptoms usually develop in the first few days after an injury. Your child may not notice problems until returning to school or daily life. For many people, symptoms resolve within a few days or weeks. Common symptoms include:
- Headaches (very common)
- Mild to moderate nausea and/or vomiting
- Noise and light sensitivity
- Feeling mentally foggy
- Difficulty concentrating — shorter attention span
- Memory problems
- Slowed thinking
- Feeling emotionally sensitive
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Drowsiness, increased sleepiness
- Difficulty sleeping
For at least 24 hours after you leave the hospital, have someone stay with your child to watch for warning signs. Call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency department if your child has any of these symptoms:
- People can’t wake your child up
- Fainting or unusual sleepiness
- Confusion or strange behavior
- Can’t remember new events
- Slurred speech, not making sense
- Sudden, severe nausea and vomiting
- Blurry or double vision
- Worsening head or neck pain
- Inability to control bladder or bowel function
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in arms or legs
- Bleeding or draining of fluid from nose or ears
Causes of concussions include:
- Car accidents
- Sports accidents
Your child’s doctor will test their hearing, vision, balance, coordination, and reflexes. They will also test your child’s memory and ability to concentrate. If necessary, the doctor will take a CT scan to look at your child’s brain right after an injury.
Treatments for a concussion include:
- Getting plenty of sleep It is not uncommon for children to sleep longer than usual each day. Sleeping longer than normal is good for your child’s recovery in the early stages.
- Following a routine. Have your child get up and do some low demand activities during the day. Then have your child to go to bed at the same time each day. They can take a brief nap (no more than one to two hours) around midday if they need it.
- Listening to your child’s body. If your child is feeling tired, or symptoms are getting worse, have them take a break for a while. Pushing through symptoms may slow their recovery.
- Avoiding risky activities that could lead to further injury. These include cycling, climbing, sports, horse riding, and skiing. In general, have your child avoid anything that requires a helmet or could result in falling or injury. A second concussion before their symptoms fully resolve can be fatal.
- Avoiding busy environments. These include shopping malls, noisy restaurants, rock concerts, or parties.
It is very important to protect your child from further brain injury after they have a concussion.
- Don’t let your child do activities that might cause another brain injury until the doctor says they are OK. A normal recovery period is usually 2 to 6 weeks, but can extend up to 3 months depending on the child’s symptoms and the severity of the concussion.
- Make sure your child’s physical education teacher, coach, and trainer know about the injury and your child’s activity restrictions. As a general rule, your child should not play sports if they have not resumed regular school work.
- If your child is in an organized sport, start with light aerobic exercises, then non-contact drills. Your child can then attend contact practice and eventually return to full activity. The doctor should provide specific details.
- After your child returns to normal activities, they should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle, roller blading, skating, snowboarding, or skiing. They should also wear a helmet when riding a horse, scooter, or ATV.
- As always, use seat belts and child safety seats in the car. Make sure the safety seats are installed correctly and right for your child’s age and size.
- Do not allow your teen to drive until the doctor says it’s okay.
- For infants, always use safety straps in high chairs, strollers, car seats, and swings.
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This medical information is provided by Intermountain Healthcare. It has not been developed to replace medical advice provided by your health care provider.
Last review date: March 2017