Does your child love sports? Keeping them safe is essential, but accidents can happen. Would your child recognize that he has a concussion if he were to sustain one? Would you?
At Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, our board-certified physician and expert medical staff examine your child thoroughly to make a correct diagnosis if your child has a concussion.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild brain injury. When the brain hits the side of the skull, the brain can undergo chemical changes; nerves and brain cells can sustain damage. The injury can affect your child’s ability to read, pay attention, and function.
Here’s what your child needs to know about concussions so he recovers as quickly as possible.
1. Teach your child about concussion symptoms
Concussion symptoms are the same in children and adults, but children may not connect with the reality of a concussion. Teaching your children about the symptoms enables them to make a report, which leads to a faster recovery.
Teach your child to watch out for the following signs and symptoms:
- Trouble with balance
- Pressure in the head or headache
- Vomiting or nausea
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Problems with vision or sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Slurred or slow speech
- Mood changes, including irritability or anxiety
- Memory loss or confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Generally not feeling well
Your child may get up after falling or being hit in the head, thinking everything is fine. But it can sometimes take days, even weeks for concussion symptoms to appear.
Even if your child’s symptoms are mild or delayed, their brain is still at risk, and they should tell you if they had a fall hitting their head or if they suffered a head injury on the sports field.
2. The difference in concussions for boys and girls
Girls often have more severe concussion symptoms than boys. Concussions affect girls and boys differently. Genetics, hormones, blood flow, and body anatomy are some of the factors that influence these gender-based concussion differences.
3. Sleep is critical if your child has a concussion
Sleep helps the brain recover after an injury — your child may need 20-40% more sleep after experiencing a concussion. Explain these facts to your child to encourage necessary sleep.
If you’re concerned about your loved one sleeping after a concussion, check their breathing to ensure they’re resting peacefully.
4. Imaging tests may not be required
CT scans expose your child to a small amount of radiation. MRIs can be stressful because of loud sounds and test requirements. Your doctor can review symptoms and comprehensive history to determine if your child has a concussion. Other tests may not be necessary.
Your child may have heard about another child that had a CT scan or an MRI and is fearful of having one. Explain that most of the time, these tests are not needed.
5. Teach your child to track their symptoms
You can make an easy-to-read weekly chart to help your child track their symptoms. They can tell you about their day and any stressful activities or issues that may worsen current symptoms. Then you can communicate that information to your doctor.
The first 24-48 hours after a concussion are vital for recovery. Identifying symptoms can help your provider create the most effective treatment plan for your child.
6. Make a gradual re-entry to school and sports
Your child may want to get on the field, but returning to daily activities and sports too soon can complicate recovery. A return to school should come before a return to sports, and it may be necessary for your child to take added breaks, have a lighter course load, or rest between classes. Teach your child to be an advocate, and back him up in school communications.
7. Light exercise can be beneficial to the brain
It’s important not to return to the sports field immediately, but becoming a couch potato is not a good idea either. Your child’s brain may recover faster with light, physical exercise.
Gentle exercises increase heart rate and add blood flow to the brain to encourage repairs. However, every situation is different. Be sure to follow your provider’s advice.
8. Explain the importance of preventing a concussion
Your child doesn’t understand the implications of repeated concussions unless you tell them. Explain that concussions can leave them with long-term effects making school and life difficult. Problems such as concentration and memory can mean failing grades, frequent headaches, and issues with physical abilities like maintaining balance. Make your child wear a helmet when biking or engaging in activities with the risk of head injury.
9. Seek medical help
Teach your child to tell you about any accident involving his head. And be sure he knows to receive a medical evaluation within one to two days of injury. Reinforce that concussion symptoms don’t always appear right away.
If you suspect your child has a concussion, contact Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center today by phone or book an appointment online. Don’t wait. We’re here to help you.