Overview of a concussion in children?
A concussion is an injury to the brain that causes the brain to actually stop working normally for a temporary or permanent time.
Concussions are usually caused by some type of trauma to the head, like falling on the head or getting into a car accident.
It is dangerous in young children because they may not be able to tell you how they’re feeling. You’ll need to watch them carefully for any signs and symptoms.
To make things even more confusing, sometimes concussion symptoms don’t show up right away after an injury. The signs and symptoms may appear hours or even days after the injury.
The signs of a concussion are generally the same for any age. But for babies, toddlers, and older children, you may have to think a little differently when trying to determine if they have a concussion.
Signs of a concussion in babies
In young babies, signs may include:
- Crying when you move the baby’s head
- Interruption in the baby’s sleeping habits, either sleeping more or less.
- Bump or bruise on the head
Signs of a concussion in toddlers
A toddler may be able to indicate when their head hurts and be more vocal about symptoms, which can include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Behaviour changes
- Sleep changes more or less sleeping
- Excessive crying
Signs of a concussion in older children (ages 2+)
Children older than 2 years may show more behavioural changes, such as:
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Double or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Looking like they’re daydreaming
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble remembering
- Confused or forgetful about recent events
- Slow to answer questions
- Changes in mood — irritable, sad, emotional, nervous
- Change in sleep patterns
- Difficulty sleeping
When to call a doctor
What happens if you see your child fall on their head or otherwise get injured? How do you know when you need to take them to the doctor?
The most important thing you can do is take good care of your child. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my baby behaving normally?
- Are they more sleepy than usual?
- Has your behaviour changed?
If your child is awake and active and does not seem to behave differently after a slight bump to the head, your child will be fine.
It’s always a good idea, of course, to get your child checked out. You may not have to rush to the ER for a small bump on the head without any symptoms.
However, if your child shows any signs of a concussion, you should seek medical help immediately, especially if:
- Lost consciousness for more than a minute or two.
- Hard to wake up
It’s OK to let your child nap if they’re sleepy after bumping their head but monitor them very carefully after they wake up.
While no test can officially diagnose. CT or MRI may occasionally be used to get a picture of the brain if the doctor suspects bleeding.
If you see that your child has unequal or larger than normal pupils (the small black spots in the eyes) after a head injury, this could indicate swelling around the brain and is a medical emergency.
The only treatment is rest. The brain needs lots and lots of rest to heal from a concussion. A full recovery can take months or even a year, depending on the severity of the concussion.
The most important thing you need to know about healing from a concussion is that the brain actually needs rest from both mental and physical activity.
After a concussion, don’t allow your child to use screens of any kind, since those actually overstimulate and excite the brain. That means no:
Sleep is actually very healing for the brain, so encourage quiet time, naps, and early bedtimes to allow the brain as much time as possible to heal.
If your child has had a concussion, it’s extremely important to prevent another concussion or head injury. Repeated concussions can cause permanent damage to the brain.
If your child shows any signs of regression, like grogginess, confusion, or large mood swings, you should make an appointment with the doctor for a checkup.