Concussions are frequently associated with football, hockey and other contact sports, but they can happen to anyone doing just about anything. In fact, bicycle accidents, falls on the playground or even strong body blows can cause concussions. It is a common misconception that they only occur when someone loses consciousness.
In most cases, concussions are not life-threatening and the effects are temporary. However, the impact is believed to be greater in children because their brains are still developing. It is important to take concussions seriously and seek treatment immediately if you suspect your child has experienced a concussion.
What is a Concussion?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a concussion is a mild type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head. The movement causes the brain to bounce around, sometimes twisting or striking the side of the skull with enough force to damage brain cells and create chemical changes in the brain.
The injury is functional rather than structural, meaning it changes how the brain works. These changes make the brain more sensitive to other injuries and increased stress until it recovers.
If the child is injured while playing sports, they should refrain from participating until they are cleared by a doctor. Experiencing another head injury while the brain is still recovering from the first can put them at risk for long-lasting symptoms and even permanent damage. This is called second-impact syndrome.
Identifying a concussion can be difficult because there are many symptoms and they can manifest immediately or weeks later. If your child has experienced a blow to the head, watch for these symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance issues
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Memory problems
- Feeling sluggish
- Memory problems
- Difficulty focusing
When very young children bump their head, they may not be able to describe how they are feeling, so it is best you know the observed symptoms as well:
- Dazed appearance
- Clumsy movements
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood swings or behavioral changes
- Difficulty remembering or answering questions
- Sleeping problems
Concussions are different for everyone, which means treatment is as well. In the case of most concussions, a couple of weeks of physical and mental rest are often enough for a full recovery. In more severe cases, like when the child loses consciousness or symptoms worsen, they should see a doctor immediately.
The child should be closely monitored for 24 to 72 hours after the injury. It is normal for children to want to sleep for long periods of time – their brains simply need a lot of rest to recover. They should avoid mentally strenuous activities during recovery, which can make symptoms worse. These activities include:
- Using technology
- Reading books
- Doing schoolwork
- Listening to loud music
- Going to concerts or parties
In general, if they can do these activities symptom-free, they can begin gradually incorporating them into their normal routine.
You cannot completely prevent injuries, but you can minimize them by taking certain precautions with children. Primarily, properly fitting helmets and correct technique should be used while participating in sports and other physical activities like bike riding, skateboarding and playing on the playground.
If you have a toddler or infant, consider child-proofing your home by keeping heavy objects out of reach. Secure top-heavy furniture to the wall, keep dangerous areas of your home closed off and do not leave your child alone on couches or chairs. In the car, always use the correct car seats, booster seats and seatbelts.
Seek Medical Attention at St. Hope Foundation
Though most children will fully recover from a concussion within weeks, it is crucial that head injuries are taken seriously to prevent permanent damage. If your child is experiencing concussion-like symptoms after an injury, do not hesitate to have them seen by one of the health experts at St. Hope Foundation. We have locations throughout the Houston area to better serve our patients. For more information, call 713.778.1300 today or contact us online.