What to do when your child has a concussion.
A concussion can be a scary experience for everyone involved. Many concussion symptoms like dizziness or memory loss can be unsettling for kids and parents alike. Unfortunately, concussions are all too common in children. The Brain Injury Research Institute reports as many as 135,000 concussion-related ER visits among children and youth between the ages of 5 and 18. Of course, we know that many more concussions go unobserved and untreated.
While we don’t intend to scare you, please understand that concussions are serious (though rarely life-threatening). Doctors classify concussions as “mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI).” Of course, the brain is a highly complex and sensitive organ, and any kind of jolt or blow that causes the brain to move suddenly within the skull can result in chemical or cellular damage. With that understanding, let’s take a look at how the recovery process sometimes works...
If You Think Your Child Has Suffered a Concussion…
Take the following steps to provide the best chance for a healthy outcome.
#1 Get Evaluated
If you believe your child has sustained a concussion, have them evaluated by a healthcare provider. A doctor may perform a basic neurological exam and cognitive testing. Image testing, such as MRI or CT scan, is not typically ordered unless the symptoms are severe. Seeing a provider can help establish a baseline for recovery and improvement.
#2 Rest Immediately
Once home, your child should rest well. This includes both physical and mental rest. Physical and cognitive activity can worsen symptoms. Encourage your child to get a good night’s sleep. Napping throughout the day is also fairly common and to be encouraged. Low intensity “couch activities” like reading or drawing are fine. Avoid screens, bright lights, and loud sounds.
#3 Return to Non-Strenuous Activities Gradually
Within a few days, most children’s concussion symptoms tend to improve. A gradual return to school and some light physical activity (such as walking) may be permitted. However, if any activity (physical or cognitive) causes symptoms to worsen, pull back!
#4 Take It Slow Getting Back to “Regular Life”
Once non-strenuous activities are being tolerated without any concussion symptoms, your child may return to school and outside play time. Again, if symptoms reappear, take a step back and allow the brain the time and space it needs to fully recover.
#5 Return to Sports With Doctor Approval
Finally, children who have experienced a concussion may return to organized sports with their doctor’s approval. Concussion symptoms should be completely gone before a return-to-play clearance is authorized. Be sure coaches and trainers are aware of your child’s recent injury.
More Concussion Recovery Tips & Suggestions
The concussion recovery process can look a little different for every kid. However, you may be able to maximize your child’s recovery by following the five steps above, as well as the following tips and suggestions:
- Rest often.
- Avoid screens.
- Take extra time for completing tasks.
- Limit caffeine intake – or, better yet, avoid altogether!
- Consider fueling the brain with restorative supplements, such as Omega-3s.
- Engage with games and tools designed to boost memory and cognitive function. (Though this may happen later in the recovery process.)
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