Concussion: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

December 19, 2019
A concussion is a type of injury that involves the loss of normal brain function for a short period of time.

Accidents are common in children since they tend to constantly run, jump, play and climb. One such accident is a concussion. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head that causes the brain to hit the skull. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at concussions, their symptoms, and how they’re treated.

The symptoms of a concussion

The symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not manifest until 24 or 48 hours after the injury. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to recognize them in infants and young children because they can’t describe exactly how they feel.

Some signs that could indicate signs of shock are the following:

  • Balance and coordination problems. Unstable walking or difficulties performing simple tasks such as playing with a ball.
  • Confusion.
  • Short-term memory problems.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Sadness or sensitiveness.
  • Anxiety and irritation without an apparent cause.
  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Sleeping too long or too little.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Excessive crying.
  • Loss of interest in their favorite activities.
A child crying.

Read more: How to Resuscitate a Baby

If your child fell and you suspect they may have a concussion but there are no symptoms, then it might be a slight injury that doesn’t require treatment or medical evaluation. However, if you observe any of the above-mentioned symptoms a few hours later, then take the child to their doctor or to the ER. They will be able to determine if treatment is necessary with a few simple tests to determine the cause of the discomfort.

Take your child to the ER immediately in the following cases:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Clear dizziness or loss of balance
  • Severe headache
  • They lose consciousness and don’t wake up
  • The child is confused and doesn’t recognize you
  • They babble and have difficulty speaking (in case of children who already speak fluently).
  • The kid has visual disturbances: dilated pupils, blurred vision and doesn’t recognize objects.
  • There’s a hematoma or a large bump on their head or swelling and burning (especially in babies).

Read more: Hand and Finger Injuries in Children

Concussion diagnosis

It’s very important to consult your doctor if you have any questions because a concussion diagnosed in time and correctly treated won’t lead to future damage. However, if you don’t pay attention to your child’s symptoms and fail to take immediate action then the shock could lead to brain damage. It could have bad consequences for their motor function and cognitive and sensory development.

A doctor will perform a thorough evaluation of the functioning of the child’s nervous system in order to diagnose this kind of injury. They may test the child’s balance, coordination, and reflexes. In addition, a proper diagnosis may require imaging technology such as CT or MRI scans to be able to determine the degree of involvement of the brain and adjacent structures.

A doctor with a baby.

Treatment

The treatment will depend on the severity of the injury and the particular characteristics of a child. If the doctor doesn’t schedule hospitalization, they’ll likely recommend home care such as:

  • Rest and decrease any heavy physical activity for a certain period of time to avoid further trauma and not extend the recovery period.
  • Avoid any type of cognitive activity. For instance, the child will have to miss school or daycare for as long as they present symptoms so that these won’t worsen.
  • Then, gradual incorporation into everyday activities.
  • The child will have to drink certain amounts of liquid and avoid junk food.

It’s important for you to be aware of any changes your child might present within 48 hours of the injury. Consult your doctor again if they worsen.

Post-concussion syndrome

Most children recover completely from a concussion with proper treatment. However, they could be afflicted by a post-concussion syndrome in some cases.

The main characteristic of this syndrome is the manifestation of the lesion’s symptoms once the expected recovery time is up. Nobody knows why the symptoms lengthen over time in some people. Generally, they’re not directly related to the severity of the trauma. So, their incidence could have to do with multiple recent concussions.

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  • Montero Pérez, F. J., Martos Órpez, M. C., Jiménez Murillo, L., Roig García, J. J., & Roig Rodríguez, J. J. (2018). Capítulo 169 Traumatismo craneoencefálico. In Medicina de urgencias y emergencias.
  • Crowe, L., Collie, A., Hearps, S., Dooley, J., Clausen, H., Maddocks, D., … Anderson, V. (2016). Cognitive and physical symptoms of concussive injury in children: A detailed longitudinal recovery study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-094663