It's no secret that children bump their heads all the time. They're busy, active and often uncoordinated as they are growing quickly. Unfortunately, small children are sometimes unable to tell us how they feel. A concussion occurs once every 15 seconds. If you have children, it’s important to know what to look for if you think they have suffered a concussion.
Concussion symptoms: When do you take your child to the doctor?
When a small child has an accident, start by considering the mechanism of the injury; for example, an infant falling from a height (such as rolling off changing table) versus a toddler bumping their head on the coffee table. Does the child continue to cry and be inconsolable after the injury or do they bounce back quickly after crying a short period of time? If your child is inconsolable or just not acting themselves after a fall or head injury, that is an indication that something more serious may have occurred. The injury may be nothing to worry about, but it's always best to have your child checked out by a qualified medical professional if you're unsure. Keep in mind that symptoms of a concussion don't always show up right away though and can take 24 to 72 hours to develop after an injury, so if you do not have your child evaluated urgently because they seem to bounce back quickly you should keep an eye on them for a day or two to see if their behavior changes or they start complaining of a headache or other signs of a head injury.
Red flags for parents should be: if your child doesn’t have an appetite, is unable to keep foods down or vomits directly after the injury. Take your child to the emergency room immediately if they experience these symptoms.
As a neurosurgeon, I am very aware of the potential for injury and as a result tend to watch over my own children very closely. After watching my daughter nearly have a serious head injury on the fireplace, I decided to put foam padding around it for protection. As parents, we want to do all we can to protect our children from any injuries, but head injuries can be especially frightening.
If your child suffers from any of the following symptoms, they should be seen in the emergency room to rule out a more serious head injury:
• loss of consciousness/unresponsiveness
• severe or worsening headache
• loss of appetite/vomiting
• vision changes
• trouble walking
• confusion or saying things that don't make sense
While children may be less susceptible to injury than adults, we have found that children who sustain a concussion often take longer than adults to recover.
How kids recover from concussions
Due to the nature of their brain’s growth, concussed children often have a prolonged recovery period compared with adults. This prolonged recovery makes the need for personalized treatment through cognitive (mental) and physical rest important.
Children with concussions need plenty of rest and nutritious meals so their bodies can heal more effectively. The term ‘rest’ means that they need time away from digital entertainment (television, computers, mobile phones, loud music, and video games for example), sports, reading traditional books, and schoolwork. By nature, children are very mentally and physically active. While it can be difficult to maintain an extended rest period, doing so will ensure a smooth and complete recovery over time.
While healthy children often can bounce back relatively quickly with the right treatment, it is important to stay in contact with their doctor. Make sure you receive an all clear from them before they resume mentally taxing or sports related activities. It's very important for anyone with a concussion to heal completely before doing anything that could lead to another concussion in order to avoid lasting brain damage.
To schedule a consultation with our concussion specialists, call (585) 922-1212 or click here to find our locations and hours.