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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, causing the brain to move within the skull. 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 of these signs or symptoms is not a concussion.
Symptoms of a concussion 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 physical activity for the first 1 to 2 days to let the brain heal and prevent another concussion. Rest and avoiding another injury to the head are the most important immediate treatments for a concussion.
Rest means your child‘s physical activity is limited to walking and light exercise that doesn’t cause them to sweat. Rest 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 display mood changes and anxiety during recovery from a brain injury. Many children worry about failing at school or not being active. Worrying may make symptoms worse or prolong recovery. 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 can 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, 2020
Author: Maternal Newborn Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services
Care instructions may be adapted by your healthcare provider. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, talk with your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.