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Concussion In Children


What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild brain injury. It is usually caused by a bump or blow to your child's head from a fall, a motor vehicle crash, or a sports injury. Your child may also get a concussion from being shaken forcefully.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Your child may develop any of the following symptoms right away, or days after the concussion:

  • A mild to moderate headache
  • Drowsiness, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A 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 or fatigue

How is a concussion diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask how your child was injured, and what his or her symptoms are. The provider will also examine him or her. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your child's brain works after an injury. Healthcare providers will check how your child's pupils react to light. They may check your child's memory and how easily he or she wakes up. Your child's hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • A CT or MRI of your child's head may be done. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. He or she should not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.

How is a concussion managed?

Usually no treatment is needed. Concussion symptoms usually go away within about 10 days, but they may last longer. The following may be recommended to manage your child's symptoms:

  • Watch your child closely for the first 24 to 72 hours after the injury. Contact your child's healthcare provider if the symptoms get worse, or if your child develops new symptoms.
  • Have your child rest from physical and mental activities as directed. Mental activities are those that require thinking, concentration, and attention. This includes school, homework, video games, computers, and television. Rest will help your child to recover from a concussion. Ask your child's healthcare provider when he or she can return to school and other daily activities.
  • Do not allow your child to participate in sports and physical activities until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. These activities could make your child's symptoms worse or lead to another concussion. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay for him or her to return to sports or physical activities. Ask for more information about sports concussions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

How can I help my child prevent another concussion?

  • Make your home safe for your child. Home safety measures can help prevent head injuries that could lead to a concussion. Put self-latching gates at the bottoms and tops of stairs. Screw the gate to the wall at the tops of stairs. Install handrails for every staircase. Put soft bumpers on furniture edges and corners. Secure furniture, such as dressers and book cases, so your child cannot pull it over.
  • Make sure your child is in a proper car seat, booster seat, or wears a seatbelt every time he or she travels. This helps to decrease your child's risk for a head injury if he or she is in a car accident.
  • Have your child wear protective sports equipment that fits properly. Helmets help decrease your child's risk for a serious brain injury. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways that you can decrease your child's risk for a concussion if he or she plays sports.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child is harder to wake than usual or you cannot wake him or her.
  • Your child has a seizure, increasing confusion, or a change in personality.
  • Your child's speech becomes slurred.
  • Your child has new vision problems.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a headache that gets worse, or he or she develops a severe headache.
  • 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 blood or clear fluid coming out of his or her ears or nose.
  • Your child is an infant and has a bulging soft spot on his or her head.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has nausea or vomits.
  • Your child's symptoms get worse.
  • Your child's symptoms last longer than 6 weeks after the injury.
  • Your child has trouble concentrating or dizziness.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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