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Concussion In Children


What is a concussion in children?

A concussion is an injury to your child's brain. It is usually caused by a bump or blow to the head from a fall, a motor vehicle crash, or a sports injury. Sometimes being forcefully shaken may cause a concussion.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion in children?

Right after the injury, your child may seem dazed, lose consciousness, or have a seizure. Symptoms may occur right away or even days or weeks after the concussion. Symptoms of a concussion may be hard to notice. Some children may act fine, even if they are not okay. Ask your child if he has any symptoms. Tell your child's teachers, coaches, or daycare providers about the injury and the symptoms to watch for. Watch your child more closely for a few weeks after his injury for these signs and symptoms:

  • Mild to moderate headache
  • Drowsiness, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Change in mood (restless, sad, or irritable)
  • Trouble thinking, remembering things, or concentrating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Short-term loss of newly learned skills, such as toilet training
  • Changes in sleeping pattern

How is a concussion diagnosed in children?

Your child's caregiver will ask you questions about how he was injured and examine him.

  • Neurologic exam: A caregiver may check your child's eyes, memory, and how easily your child wakes up. The strength of your child's arms, hands, legs, and feet may also be checked. These tests may tell caregivers how well your child's brain is working.
  • X-ray: Your child's caregiver may order x-rays of your child's head and neck. This is done to check for other injuries, such as a fracture.
  • CT scan: An x-ray uses a computer to take pictures of your child's brain. He may be given dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell your child's caregivers if he is allergic to iodine or shellfish. He may also be allergic to the dye.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your child's head and blood vessels. He may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell your child's caregivers if he is allergic to iodine or shellfish. He may also be allergic to the dye. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell your child's caregivers if he has any metal in or on his body.

How is a concussion treated in children?

Although your child needs to be seen by a doctor, usually no treatment is needed. Your child may need tests. He may need to stay in the hospital for a short time. Your child may be sent home with special instructions.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child and how often to give it.

How can I help manage my child's symptoms?

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your child's head for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for up to 2 days after his injury.
  • Rest: Have your child rest in bed or play quietly for 24 hours after his concussion. Your child may return to normal activities after he feels better.
  • Activity restrictions: Your child may not be able to play sports or to do activities that could result in a blow to the head. It is dangerous to receive another concussion before the brain has recovered from the first one. Your child's caregiver will let you know when it is okay to let him return to normal activities and sports.

What are the risks of a concussion in children?

  • Rarely, some children may develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Symptoms of PCS may not start for several weeks or months after an injury, and usually go away over time. Some people may need further treatment. Your child may have symptoms such as a headache or vision changes with PCS. He may also become anxious, depressed, have difficulty managing anger, or have problems with his memory.
  • Your child may also have had other injuries at the same time as the concussion, like a neck or face injury. The longer your child was unconscious, the more serious the concussion may be. Each additional concussion your child has may increase his risk for problems later in life. These problems include poor coordination, or trouble thinking or concentrating. Having repeated concussions can be life-threatening

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has nausea or vomits.
  • Your child's symptoms or condition gets worse during the first several days after his injury.
  • Your child's symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has a severe headache or vomits multiple times.
  • Your child is harder to wake up than usual or you cannot wake him.
  • Your child stops responding to others or he passes out.
  • Your child has arm or leg weakness, loss of feeling, or new problems with coordination.
  • Your child will not stop crying or will not eat.
  • Your child has a seizure, increasing confusion, or a change in personality.
  • Your child's speech becomes slurred, or he has new vision problems.
  • Your child has blood or clear fluid coming out of his ears or nose.
  • Your child is an infant and has a bulging soft spot on his head.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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