Everyone has heard of concussions.
Concussions have gotten a lot of attention lately in professional sports, especially the NFL. They can be quite dangerous if players and coaches ignore the symptoms. However, concussions don’t just happen to athletes. My 12-year-old son was playing with friends between classes when he slipped and hit his head on a brick wall. Here’s what I learned about concussions in kids from that experience.
What exactly is a concussion, anyway?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It is caused by a blow to the head, although violent shaking can also cause concussions. A headache is the most common symptom. Most people fully recover from a concussion, although it can take several weeks. While most people associate concussions with sports, falls are the most common cause.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion may not show up immediately.
You will need to keep a close eye on your child after they experience a fall or blow to the head to see if symptoms develop. It’s a myth that concussions only occur if the person loses consciousness. The most common symptom is a headache and nausea and vomiting can occur. Watch out for blurry vision or ringing in the ears. Drowsiness and fatigue may be symptoms. The person may also experience dizziness or confusion.
I received information from my child’s school nurse that also highlighted some more dangerous signs of concussions in kids and in adults.
These are signs that you should call 911:
- You should be concerned if a headache is severe or gets worse.
- Seizure activity or loss of control of the bladder or bowels are also serious signs.
- Vomiting more than 3 times is another serious warning.
- If your child loses consciousness or you are unable to wake them.
If your child has a concussion, they need to take a break from sports.
Children should not return to sports or vigorous activities while they are experiencing symptoms of a concussion. They should never return to playing a sport the same day that they experience a concussion. The treatment for concussions is physical and mental rest. Ease back into activities and back off if an activity causes symptoms. Besides physical activity, things like playing video games, watching television, and reading can also bring on symptoms. These can be gradually added back to your child’s routine. Also, check with your healthcare provider to see which medications are safe to use after a concussion. Some painkillers, such as Aspirin, may increase the risk of bleeding.
You will need to contact your child’s pediatrician after they receive a concussion for clearance to return to sports activities.
The pediatrician will help develop a plan for your child to return to school. Every plan will be specific to the child. They may initially need to stay home from school until symptoms start to abate. It is also recommended that students do not set an alarm and get as much sleep as their body requires while it is healing. The student may need accommodations such as extra time for assignments or extra rest periods. Overall, the child’s symptoms dictate how much activity they can handle.
Finally, there are ways to help lower the risk of concussions in kids.
- Always wear a seatbelt in vehicles and place children in the correct safety seats for their age and size.
- Wear helmets when playing sports or doing other risky activities, such as horseback riding or sledding.
- Put up safety gates on stairs in households with young children.
- Prevent children from falling out of windows by installing safety guards.
- Remove tripping hazards from your home, especially on stairs or in bathrooms.
With proper care, your child will recover from a concussion. It just takes a lot of patience!
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