Of course, at least once, you’ve heard someone you know say that they’ve had a head injury. In America alone, head injuries are one of the most common cases brought to the emergency department. From 1.5 million cases of brain injury, most were just mild injuries with full recovery, 230.000 people were hospitalized and survived, while 50.000 died.
Signs & Symptoms
As the brain is very complex, every brain injury is different. Some symptoms may appear right away, while others may not show up for days or weeks after the concussion. The signs of concussion can be subtle. Early on, problems may be missed by patients, family members and doctors. People may look fine even though they’re acting or feeling differently. Generally, when you think “I just don’t feel like myself,” or “something is not quite right,” you should talk with your doctor. In children it may be harder to detect, usually they would show listlessness, irritability, a change in eating or sleeping pattern, the way they play or perform at school, lack of interest in favorite toys, loss of new skills (such as toilet training), or loss of balance (unsteady walking).
Every trauma to the head should be seen by a doctor. Tell the doctor the mechanism of injury, what you feel (immediately after the injury and currently) and don’t forget to tell the doctor if you are currently taking any medicines, including illicit drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the doctors may do a head CT scan or other tests. But even if the brain injury doesn’t show up on these tests, you may still have a concussion. Some people must be hospitalized and some can be discharged with important instructions to follow. Be sure to carefully follow those instructions.
In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain, which may cause serious complications that can lead to permanent disabilities or even death. Seek medical attention ASAP when you see or experience these signs:
- Headaches that get worse
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
- Repeated vomiting
- Cannot be awakened
- Have one pupil, the black part in the middle of the eye, larger than the other
- Have convulsions or seizures
- Have slurred speech
- Getting more and more confused, restless or agitated
- Child won’t stop crying, can’t be consoled or won’t eat/nurse
Although you should contact a doctor if your child vomits more than once or twice, vomiting is more common in younger children and is less likely to be an urgent sign of danger than it is in an adult.
How fast people recover from brain injury varies from person to person. Although most people have a good recovery, how quickly they improve depends on many factors. These factors include how severe the concussion was, what part of the brain was injured, their age and how healthy they were before the concussion.
Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. You’ll need to be patient because healing takes time. Return to your daily activities, such as work or school, at your own pace. As the days go by, you can expect to gradually feel better.
Healing Tips for Adults
- Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day.
- Return to your normal activities gradually, not all at once.
- Avoid activities that could lead to a second brain injury, such as contact or recreational sports, until your doctor says you are well enough to take part in these activities.
- Consider talking with your employer about returning to work gradually and changing your work activities until you recover.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol and certain other drugs may slow your recovery and can put at risk of further injury.
- If it’s harder than usual to remember things, write them down.
- If you’re easily distracted, try to do one thing at a time. For example, don’t try to watch TV while fixing dinner.
- Consult with family members or close friends when making important decisions.
- Don’t neglect your basic needs such as eating well and getting enough rest.
Healing Tips for Children
Parents and caretakers of children who have had a concussion can help them heal by:
- Having the child get plenty of rest.
- Making sure the child avoids activities that could result in a second blow or jolt to the head, such as riding a bicycle, playing sports, or climbing playground equipment, until the doctor says the child is well enough to take part in these activities.
- Sharing information about concussion with teachers, counselors, babysitters, coaches, and others who interact with the child so they can understand what has happened and help meet the child’s needs.
Also, ask the doctor:
- When you or your child can start daily activities, such as driving a car, riding a bicycle, operating heavy equipment or return to school.
- Ways to make employers or teachers understand about what has happened to you or your child.
- Which drugs are safe for you or your child’s condition.