Watch for Signs of Concussion in Children

When a concussion happens

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Summer fun involving outdoor play and sports for children often results in minor cuts and bruises, and occasionally a broken bone. These are obvious injuries requiring attention. But every year, hundreds of thousands of children suffer concussions, an injury that isn’t always immediately recognizable.

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to bounce around or twist in the skull. This can create chemical changes in the brain and stretch and damage brain cells.

Concussions can result from falls, being hit by a ball during sports, or running into a solid object, such as a wall or tree. Recognizing a concussion is key to faster recovery. The best treatment is rest from physical and mental activity until the symptoms go away. It is especially important to prevent additional concussions in the weeks and months after a concussion so that the brain can fully heal. Repeated concussions can affect thinking, learning, memory and emotions. Seek immediate emergency medical attention for your child or teen if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • One pupil larger than the other;
  • Drowsiness or inability to wake up;
  • Headache that worsens and does not go away;
  • Slurred speech, weakness, numbness or decreased coordination;
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures;
  • Increased confusion, restlessness or agitation; or
  • Losing consciousness, even briefly.

You should also seek immediate medical care for a toddler or infant with a possible concussion who will not stop crying and cannot be consoled or will not nurse or eat. Some signs of concussion may not show up immediately, so continue to check for them for a few days after the injury. If your child or teen exhibits the following signs without improvement, seek medical attention:

  • Dizziness, difficulty with coordination and balance;
  • Moodiness, irritability, personality changes;
  • Persistent headache;
  • Persistent mild nausea;
  • Trouble concentrating;
  • Difficulty remembering and learning new information;
  • Fatigue, low energy;
  • Sleeping problems, including sleeping more than usual; or
  • Blurry vision or other vision problems.

For more information on how to recognize, treat and prevent concussions in children and youth, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Heads Up information page at www.cdc.gov/headsup/.

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