In our last post for National Child Safety and Protection Month, we discuss how to recognize the signs of a concussion.
Parents of toddlers and young children know how hard it is to protect them 24-hours a day. After a major crash while running too fast after their sibling, you may have wondered how serious a head injury they might have. Concussions can happen to children of any age, but our littlest ones might not be able to verbalize what they are feeling, which is why it’s important to know the signs of a concussion and seek proper medical attention.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal brain function. It is an injury to the head causes the brain to shift suddenly within the skull. It is usually caused by a blow to the head, a whiplash injury, or when the head strikes the ground.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Concussion?
A concussion may cause multiple symptoms that are the same for infants, toddlers, and older children. Many symptoms appear immediately after the injury, while others can develop over the next several days or weeks. The symptoms may be subtle and are often difficult to fully recognize. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, and acting dazed/confused. Babies sometimes cry inconsolably. Some common other symptoms include:
- Nausea , vomiting
- Lack of energy, tiredness, listlessness
- Sleep changes—either sleeping more or sleeping less
- Behavior changes—e.g. loss of interest in playing or doing their favorite activities
- Mood changes—irritability, crankiness, anxiety, or sadness
- Poor balance
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slowed thought processes
- Difficulty with memory
To help prevent concussions in toddlers and young children:
- Childproof your home
- Block off stairways and install window guards
- Never leave your baby or toddler unattended
- Closely attend to children on decks and balconies
- Use safety straps on high chairs and changing tables
- Use guard rails on toddler beds
- Use nightlights to prevent falls in the dark
- Always use an age-appropriate car seat
- Make sure your child wears properly fitting headgear while riding a bike or a scooter
In sports for older children and teens, not all sports-related concussions can be prevented, but the risk may be lessened by following the rules of good sportsmanship and through proper blocking and tackling techniques in football. Students should not return to sports when still having symptoms of a concussion, as they are at risk for prolonging symptoms and further injury. Special football helmets, soccer head gear, and mouth guards have not been scientifically proven to prevent concussions.
How Should A Concussion Be Managed?
The key to proper management of a concussion is early recognition. If your child is showing any signs of a concussion, contact your doctor, urgent care or emergency room. Most bumps to the head do not cause concussion, but to be safe, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call your child’s doctor for anything more than a light bump on the head. Athletes suspected of having a concussion should be pulled from play and evaluated by a health care professional. As the saying goes, “When in doubt, sit them out.”
Most children recover from a concussion quickly, but some can experience persistent symptoms. In the Eugene/Springfield area, the Eugene Youth Concussion Management Team is a collaboration between Slocum Center, University of Oregon, and other community providers offering evidence-based specialty care for students with persistent concussion symptoms.
Ryann Watson-Stites, PhD, ABPP/CN and Michael Koester, MD, are Directors of the Sports Concussion Program at the Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.