How to Tell if Your Child Has a Concussion

Head Injuries and Concussions.

When in doubt, Check it out.

Concussions have gotten a lot of press lately and when we think about concussions, we typically think of sports and athletes but the truth is that concussions and possible head injuries can happen anywhere and while we cannot have our children walk around with a helmet everywhere they go, we can be aware of the most common signs and symptoms of head injuries and possible concussions so that we, as parents, can make better decisions for the safety of our children.

Please allow me to preface this information with a better safe than sorry approach. If you, at any time, feel that your child has suffered a blow to the head and feel that they should have an exam to be sure everything is ok, then do it. You can drive the child to the hospital if the child has no signs or symptoms or you can call 911 and have them taken to the ER if the child is showing any of the following signs or symptoms.

How does a concussion happen? A concussion can happen when the head receives a severe blow or the body can be shaken to the point that it effects the brain. This can happen from something as small as a fall from tripping or something as severe as a football tackle or baseball hit to the head.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a concussion that I should be looking for?

  • Severe Headaches. With the child receiving a blow to the head, a headache might be expected but if the headache persists or becomes severe then a trip to have it assessed is in order.
  • Your child is not acting like their normal self. The tricky part of head injuries is that they do not have to manifest immediately. Some signs and symptoms can take hours to start manifesting themselves and observation of the child is in order. If the child is not acting as they normally do, for example a child that is suddenly sluggish or unable to focus or remember things could possibly have a head injury and needs to be examined.
  • Nausea and or Vomiting. It is not uncommon for a person with a head injury to become nauseous or vomit shortly after sustaining the injury.
  • A loss of coordination. A person who has suffered a head injury or concussion may lose coordination and may not be able to walk or even stand.
  • Vision problems. Blurred vision or a loss of vision in one or both eyes is a sign of a head injury. The best answer, in this case, is calling 911. There is no timetable on how long this could last and it is best to have this person transported and evaluated at the hospital.
  • Slurred Speech. This is one of the easier signs to assess as the person will not be able to speak as they normally do.
  • Disruption of sleep. If a child that has suffered a head injury earlier in the day or previous days is having difficulty sleeping, this is something that should be assessed by a doctor and requires immediate attention.

While this is just a list of some of the most common symptoms, the ultimate decision is up to you. As I said above and as I tell all of the patients I encounter with these types of injuries. To know for sure we need to go get it looked at. The longer these symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated, the worse they can become and the greater damage they can cause. When in doubt check it out.

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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