What To Do If Your Child Has Had A Concussion

Photo by  Joseph Gonzalez  on  Unsplash

Of all the accidents and injuries that can occur to a child, one that parents greatly fear, is brain concussion. This type of traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. In the latest figures provided by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, traumatic brain injuries led to 2.5 million emergency visits in a year. Concussions are usually described as ‘mild’ yet their effects can be serious. In this post, we highlight steps to be taken if you think your child has suffered a concussion.

How do most concussions occur?

The most common causes of concussion are falls, vehicle crashes, unintentionally being struck by an item, playing sports, and assaults. After a concussion, some people lose consciousness for a short time; others just feel confused or ‘foggy’. Some develop amnesia with respect to events that happened before or after the injury. Thus, if a child has fallen off a bike or suffered a concussion at a sporting event, they may not recall events in the hours leading up to the event. They may be very surprised to learn they have had an accident or injury.

Symptoms of concussion

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, a child with a concussion may display one or more symptoms, including headache, neck pain, nausea or vomiting, tiredness, dizziness, blurred or double vision, mood changes, confusion, a ringing in the ears, changes in taste or smell. Sometimes a child will seem perfectly fine after an accident, but develop symptoms minutes or hours down the line. In very serious cases, there may be a weakness in an arm, unresponsiveness, or seizures.

Immediate attention is key

Even if a child feels ‘okay’, prompt medical attention is key. Your doctor will perform various physical and neurological checks (including dilation of pupils when a light is applied, balance, remembering things, etc.). Checks may be carried out over various hours to ensure a child is progressing well. Your doctor may deem a CT scan necessary, simply to ensure there are no signs of a more serious head injury.

Home care

If your child is alert and your doctor sees fit, he may recommend home care. It is vital that you monitor your child for the next 24 to 48 hours to ensure they do not become worse or lose consciousness. Usually, people recover in a few minutes or hours, though they can have a few symptoms for a few months. Most people who have had an injury feel completely well in around three months.

Avoiding future concussions

Repeated brain injuries can result in lasting damage so it is important for your child to take extra care if they have already had a concussion. Studies have shown that those who have had one concussion have a greater chance of experiencing another. Therefore, they should wear helmet at any times they are on a bicycle; only play contact sports such as football, ice hockey, soccer, and lacrosse if rules are very strictly adhered to; and perform exercises to strengthen the neck  muscles, which can help the body to absorb shock more efficiently, decreasing the force delivered to the brain. Weak neck muscles are thought to be the reason why girls are at a greater risk of concussion than boys.

It is important for parents to understand that there is no ‘concussion-proof helmet’. A good helmet can definitely improve the risk of a serious injury or fracture, so it is definitely worth wearing when taking part in activities ‘on wheels’. Also be aware that currently, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that wearing headgear in soccer games reduces the risk of concussion. Studies are also at odds regarding the usefulness of helmets for football and hockey.

Brain concussion can be as scary for children as it is for their parents, which is why prompt medical attention is key after a car accident or other potentially traumatic event. Symptoms don’t always show up immediately, so err on the side of precaution and see your doctor for testing. If you have been told to monitor your child at home, do so vigilantly; their progress over the next couple of days will let you know whether or not a further medical visit is necessary.