Uzma Muneer, D.O., whose specialty is Pediatrics, shared in the Edwards-Elmhurst Healthy Driven Blog that most children are constantly moving. But with that energy comes the risk of injury. It’s important for any parent to know how to recognize, respond to and minimize the risk of childhood concussions. A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when the head is struck or suddenly jarred. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions happen each year in this country, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of these injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, increasing the risk for more severe brain injury.
Concussions aren’t limited to sports. A concussion may result from something as simple as your child falling off a bike and hitting his/her head on the sidewalk.
Here are 8 things you should know to help prevent childhood concussions or minimize their impact:
- Make sure your child wears the right protective gear for their activity. For example, a proper-fitting helmet when biking or sledding is a must. Ensure your child follows the rules for safety on the playground and in his/her sport.
- Get to know your child’s coaches and trainers. Confirm that all who work with the team are informed on laws and guidelines for kids returning to play after a head injury.
- Find out if your child’s school does pre-season baseline neurological tests for its athletes. These are measures of balance and brain functions, such as memory and focus, and can help in evaluating the impact of any subsequent head injury.
- Urge your child to speak up about possible concussion symptoms, which may include: headaches, light-headedness, amnesia, nausea, blurry vision, dizziness, depression, sensitivity to light and noise, confusion, and difficulty processing information. If your child experiences loss of consciousness, repeated vomiting, seizures, one pupil larger than the other, or symptoms that worsen over time, seek emergency medical care.
- Sometimes concussion symptoms don’t show up for a day or two, so keep an eye out for symptoms at home.
- If your child does suffer a bump, blow or jolt to the head, seek prompt medical attention. A CT scan may be needed to rule out bleeding in the brain. Follow up with your primary care physician or a neurologist.
- Treatment for a concussion usually consists of complete rest from all physical and mental activity. Your child may need to avoid stimulating activities and even schoolwork for a while. Loud music, TV, or computer should be limited or stopped if symptoms increase. Keep your child’s teacher and school nurse up-to-date on your child’s progress. Your child may need to be excused from P.E. class and recess.
- Don’t push for a return to sports before your child is medically cleared. Many young athletes will need to suspend all sports activity until symptoms have completely resolved at rest, and only upon doctor’s orders. Getting a second concussion before the first one heals is dangerous and sometimes deadly, especially in young people whose brains aren’t fully developed.
All concussions are serious, so make sure your child never ignores a head injury, no matter how minor.