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Signs your child may have a concussion

Your toddler topples over while learning to walk. Your child bonks heads with a friend while playing outside. Your teenager gets punched in the back of the head during a particularly aggressive soccer game. Are these minor bonks on the head or more serious head injuries that require medical attention? Is it a bump or a concussion? How do you know?

girl with a headache

Signs of concussion

Determining when your child needs an ice pack and when you should call 911 may seem like an obvious distinction — but it’s not always that obvious for head injuries. What seems like nothing at first, or just a little headache, could be just that, but it could also be just one of several symptoms, and you may not be sure they are all related. If your child has suffered a blow to the head, consider these symptoms of a more serious condition. When in doubt, better to have your child checked out than risk more serious consequences of the injury.

Loss of consciousness

Call 911 immediately. If your child revives before the emergency personnel arrive, keep them still until EMTs can assess the situation.

Severe headache and/or obvious trauma

While a 911 may not be required in this case (but may be), you should have your child seen by medical professionals as soon as possible if they are experiencing headaches and there is visible trauma to the head.

Appetite changes or nausea

When your normally ravenous child is refusing food or complains of feeling like they want to throw up, ask more questions of your child and place a call to his or her pediatrician.

Visual changes and sensitivity to light

Visual changes and/or sensitivity to light may not be instant symptoms, but may develop over the course of time. If you notice your child blinking their eyes a lot or squinting, investigate further.

Lack of balance or dizziness

When your child can’t walk appropriately after a head impact, seek medical attention. If your child is complaining about dizziness weeks after a treated head injury, time for a reevaluation of the condition.

Excessive tiredness and feeling “dazed”

Is the look in your child’s eyes kind of an “out of it” look? Does your child seem very tired and want to sleep longer and longer? Even for late sleeping adolescents, excessive tiredness can be a sign of a brain injury.

Excessive irritability or moodiness

It may be hormones in teenagers — or maybe not. It may be lots of things — or related to a head blow. Because concussions can be related to increased risk for depression, don’t dismiss moods.

Change of interest in school, friends, activities

Sudden changes in behavioral norms are always cause for concern with kids. If the usual loved activities and interests are met with blasé disconnect, consider the pattern and seek help.

Symptoms over time

Not every concussion symptom is apparent immediately after the impact. Some symptoms develop hours or even days after the initial injury. This can make it tricky to know what you are dealing with! Keeping an extra eye on your child over time after he or she has endured any kind of head impact is important so you can get appropriate treatment if needed.

Head injuries are scary things. While not all bonks on the head are concussions, being aware of the symptoms of more serious head injuries can help you protect that precious noggin.

Learn how to prevent head injuries in kids

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