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Post Concussion Syndrome In Children


What is post-concussion syndrome (PCS)?

PCS is a group of symptoms that affect your child's nerves, thinking, and behavior. PCS develops shortly after a concussion and can last for weeks to months.

What increases my child's risk for PCS?

  • A past head injury
  • A current mood or anxiety disorder
  • Poor physical health before the concussion

What are the signs and symptoms of PCS?

  • Headaches or vision problems
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Forgetfulness or problems concentrating
  • Problems with sleep
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures
  • Depression or anxiety

How is PCS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's injury. Tell him when it happened, what hit your child, and the force of the blow. Tell him about any confusion your child has or changes in his behavior. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam is used to test your child's memory and ability to recognize familiar things. It will also show healthcare providers your child's eye, verbal, and muscle responses.
  • Blood and urine tests will be done to make sure there is no other cause for your child's symptoms. Infections or chemicals can affect your child's memory and behavior.
  • CT scan pictures of your child's head may show an injury. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is PCS treated?

Treatment will focus on your child's symptoms. He may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give and how often to give it. Follow directions. 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.
  • Antidepressants may be given for depression or sleep problems.
  • Migraine medicines may be given for migraine headaches.

What are the risks of PCS?

PCS may decrease your child's ability to function at home, school, or work. Your child may develop persistent post-concussion syndrome. He may develop second-impact syndrome if he has another concussion before he has recovered from the first. Second-impact syndrome can be life-threatening.

How can PCS be prevented?

  • 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 seatbelt every time he travels. This helps decrease your child's risk for a head injury if he 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. Ask your healthcare provider about other ways to decrease your child's concussion risk if he plays sports.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

  • Have your child rest from physical and mental activities as directed. Mental activities need your child to think, concentrate, and pay attention. Rest will help your child to recover from his concussion. Ask your child's healthcare provider when he can return to school and other daily activities.
  • Take your child to therapy as directed. A cognitive behavioral therapist teaches your child skills to help with any thinking and behavior problems he may have. An occupational therapist teaches your child skills to help with daily activities.
  • Talk to officials at your child's school about the concussion. This will help them understand how to help your child. Your child may have attention or memory problems that he did not have before the concussion. He may need extra time for tests and extra help to finish his homework.
  • Do not allow your child to participate in sports or physical activities until his 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 to return to sports or physical activities.

Where can I find more information?

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is not responding, or you cannot wake him.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a sudden headache that seems different or much worse than his usual headaches.
  • Your child cannot stop vomiting.
  • Your child has a sudden change in his vision.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting.
  • Your child has trouble concentrating, speaking, or thinking.
  • Your child's symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.