Symptoms of concussions
Tamara Zach, MD, is a pediatric neurologist on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Ariz. Her office can be reached at (480) 412-7400.
Question: My kids often bump their heads and I want to be prepared in the event of a serious injury. Knowing the dangers of concussions, what are the signs and symptoms and what should I do if I suspect my child has a concussion?
Answer: Of the millions of head injuries that occur in children each year, most are minor and do not require medical attention. But of course, some head injuries, such as concussions, are more serious and warrant medical evaluation. Reports suggest that for every 100,000 kids, 150 will sustain a concussion. However, not all concussions are diagnosed and reported, so it is believed that the number is actually closer to 500 in 100,000 kids.
A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a bump, blow or violent jolt to the head. During the force of the injury, the brain shifts in the skull, which can alter the way the brain functions. In children, common causes of concussions are motor vehicle accidents, falls, and participating in sporting and recreational events.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion that parents should be aware of include: unconsciousness, confusion, forgetfulness, headache, dizziness, poor balance, lack of awareness of surroundings, nausea, and vomiting. Over the next hours and days, children may also experience mood changes, blurry vision, sensitivity to light and noise, difficulty sleeping, and problems concentrating at school. In severe cases, there may be neurological symptoms, such as weakness and seizures.
Parents who suspect that their child may have a concussion should contact their health care provider or seek a medical evaluation to assess the neurologic and mental function. In most cases, symptoms resolve within a few weeks to a few months. Children who suffer prolonged unconsciousness, persistent alterations to their mental status, or who demonstrate abnormalities during a neurologic exam often require further testing and neurological consultation.
Overall, parents should rest assured that children are incredibly resilient, and, when addressed appropriately and in a timely manner, most mild traumatic injuries have an excellent prognosis