Must-know signs of a concussion in adults and kids

Must-know signs of a concussion in adults and kids

Hitting your head can have serious health complications. Millions of concussion cases are recorded in the United States each year. While most are sports-related, other common causes include falls, car accidents, and assaults. Knowing the signs of a concussion can help people become aware of what precautions to take and what to do in the event of a head injury.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow, bump, or jolt to the head. It can also be caused when the body gets hit so strongly that it causes the head to move back and forth rapidly, forcing the brain to bounce or twist within the skull. This sudden movement can create abnormal chemical changes and cause damage to brain cells.

What are the 3 stages of a concussion?

The American Academy of Neurology has developed a set of guidelines with a recommended set of grades for evaluating concussions. Each grade includes the symptomatic signs associated with it and what course of action should be taken with it.

  • Grade 1 – low-grade/mild: Symptoms of this grade often resolve and go away on their own. Resting and refraining from physical activities, including the one that caused it, is recommended for patients that experience mild symptoms.
  • Grade 2 – mid-grade/moderate: Moderate grade involves headache pain that lingers for more than 30 minutes. You can take aspirin or ibuprofen medication for concussion headaches. But a healthcare provider or family member should still monitor for any additional symptoms that may occur. If a headache gets worse, urgent care for concussion pain is required.
  • Grade 3 – high-grade/severe: Severe concussions require urgent medical attention. Common symptoms of this grade include frequent and painful headaches, decreased motor skills, slurred speech, uneven pupil sizes, and vision problems. These may indicate internal bleeding and may require immediate care at an ER for concussion patients.

Signs of a concussion

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may not show immediately. Some may occur but may hardly be ever noticeable. Some go away almost immediately, while some symptoms may last for days, months, or more.

Mild and immediate symptoms include headache, memory loss, dizziness, and confusion. Other signs of a concussion may include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Forgetfulness

Signs and symptoms that may occur a few days, weeks, or months after a head injury may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Memory issues
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Sleeping problems
  • Taste and smell disorders

Is tiredness a sign of a concussion?

Extreme tiredness or fatigue is a common symptom after a head injury. When the brain gets shaken, it may seem to have less energy and can easily get worn out. If you feel like you get tired a lot following a head injury, don’t fight it. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that you need to rest more often to recover faster.

Is fever a sign of concussion?

Fever can be a sign of a concussion. Referred to as neurogenic fever, this symptom occurs between 4% to 37% of concussion patients. This is often caused by a faulty immune response wherein your immune system thinks you have an infection even if you don’t.

Although it’s not an uncommon sign, it can be life-threatening in some cases. If you experience a fever following a recent head injury, seek medical attention immediately.

Signs of a concussion in kids

Head trauma is common in young children especially since they’re at a very adventurous stage of their lives. However, kids’ concussions can be quite challenging to recognize since it can be quite difficult for them to describe or express what they’re feeling. As an observer, here are some clues to watch out for following a head injury in children:

  • Dazed or confused appearance
  • Gets tired easily
  • Irritable, cranky, or fussy
  • Loss of balance
  • Unsteady walk
  • Excessive crying
  • Eating problems
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in favorite items, toys, or activities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures

How long should you keep a child awake after a concussion?

It’s a common myth that a child, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t sleep after a concussion. However, according to Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., neuropsychologist and pediatric concussion expert at Children’s Health Andrews Institute, sleeping encourages healing in the brain. Sleeping helps restore glucose which the brain can use for energy. If it seems unusual for your child to sleep right after a concussion, bring them to the nearest urgent care as soon as possible. 

Concussion complications

A concussion may cause a wide range of complications, both short-term and long-term. Most complications may affect a patient’s thoughts, thinking, emotions, sensation, and language. The changes in any of those may lead to further problems with personality, memory, communication, and behavior. The following are potential complications that may arise from concussions:

  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • Convulsive motor phenomena
  • Post-traumatic seizures
  • Second-impact syndrome
  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

To check for potential effects of a recent head injury, medical professionals may need to perform a concussion test or scan to determine if complications can be avoided through concussion treatments such as IV therapy.

Can a concussion cause serious damage?

A single concussion occurring for the first time shouldn’t cause any serious permanent damage. However, a second instance that occurs soon after the first one could cause permanent disabling effects, no matter how mild it is.

Head injury prevention tips

One can never tell when an injury may occur. But there are ways to help prevent it, be it in sports, work, or everyday life.

At home

  • Remove safety hazards at home and in your workplace especially if they may contribute to falls, bumps, or crashes.
  • Clear the floor of loose cables, toys, and other objects.
  • Wipe away any spilled liquid immediately.
  • Install safety gates, fences, window rails or guards, and handrails when living with smaller children or frail geriatric family members.

In sports

  • Wear the right uniform or suit for certain sports or activities.
  • Keep your line of vision clear.
  • Avoid participating in any physical activity when you’re sick or tired.
  • Replace damaged protective gear or equipment.

In the car

  • Obey traffic rules and signals when driving to avoid accidents.
  • Wear your seatbelt all the time while driving or riding.
  • Refrain from driving when under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications.

In public

  • Supervise young children while playing or during sports activities. Don’t allow them to use a playground or sports equipment that isn’t appropriate for their age.
  • Stick to the rules, guidelines, or policies imposed in parks, water resorts, pools, and beaches.
  • Check the depth of swimming pools or any natural body of water before diving to make sure you won’t bump into anything.
  • Avoid walking, skating, or cycling too fast on uneven terrain.

Heads up!

Concussions occur more often than we know and symptoms may vary from one person to another. Being aware of the signs of a concussion can help us recognize when it happens, making us capable of determining how to deal with them properly and when to seek urgent medical assistance.

Follow the tips above to help prevent head injuries and concussions wherever you are. If you suspect someone of having a concussion, keep a close eye on them and observe for physical signs. If you’re unsure but something seems off, call a medical professional immediately.

What can you do to help someone who is unconscious has fainted or has a concussion?

If someone is unconscious or has had a concussion, the first thing you can do is ask if they’re okay. If they are unresponsive, shake them gently in case it involves a spinal cord injury. If they still won’t respond, check for breathing and a pulse or heartbeat. Call 911 if the pulse is absent or weak, if there are no signs of breathing, and if they are bleeding.

Do you need an IV for a concussion?

An IV can help restore the blood volume and pressure of a patient who experienced a brain or head injury.

How can you test for a concussion at home?

There is no home test kit or procedure to diagnose a concussion at home. The best thing to do is to check for signs and symptoms and to monitor any physical or behavioral changes to determine if a test or treatment is needed.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered, construed or interpreted as legal or professional advice, guidance or opinion.

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