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A concussion is a brain injury caused by an impact or hit (also called a direct blow) to the head, face or neck. A concussion can also be caused by a blow to the body that sends a force to the head. Your child can have a concussion even if they don’t pass out (lose consciousness). Your child’s doctor can diagnose a concussion based on the signs and symptoms. Medical imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans usually can’t diagnose a concussion.
A concussion may be called a minor head trauma or minor brain injury. It may also be called a head injury or a mild traumatic brain injury. A simple hit to the head without any signs or symptoms is not a concussion.
Symptoms of a concussion may include:
These symptoms will usually last for 7 to 10 days. Most children and teens will stop showing signs and symptoms and fully recover by 1 month. If your child has had a concussion before or gets migraines, it may take longer for them to recover.
Even if your child has already been seen by a doctor and you know the child has a concussion, go to your nearest emergency department right away if your child has any of these symptoms:
Your child should stay home from school or daycare and avoid intense physical and mental activity for the first 1 to 2 days to let the brain heal and prevent another concussion. Resting and avoiding another head injury are the most important treatments right after a concussion.
Rest means your child‘s physical activity is limited to walking and light exercise that doesn’t cause them to sweat. Mental activities will depend on your child’s age and can include:
The following tips will help you care for your child as they recover from a concussion.
Children often have mood changes and anxiety as they recover from a brain injury. Many children worry about failing at school or not being active. Worrying may make symptoms worse or make recovery time longer. Let your child know that having these feelings is normal and offer encouragement and support. Some children may need support from a counsellor.
If you child is not better after 4 weeks, talk to your healthcare provider and ask for a referral to a pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in children’s health), a concussion specialist, or a neurologist.
If your child seems to be doing well after 1 to 2 days of rest, they should start doing more activity, using the steps in Concussion in Children: Returning to School and Sport. Your child should start working on these steps within 5 days of the concussion.
To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_concussion_ac_child.
For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.
Current as of: January 14, 2023
Author: Maternal Newborn Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.