Signs of a Concussion in Children

Younger children who experience some type of head trauma are often unable to verbalize symptoms in the same way as older children and adults can. For concussions affecting younger children, including infants and toddlers, it’s important to look for non-verbal signs and symptoms. The most noticeable of these symptoms is the appearance of being “out of it” or dazed. Some younger children may also exhibit changes in more subtle changes in personality, such as being increasingly irritable and cranky. Such changes may also involve excessive crying for no apparent reason. A general listlessness and unexplained fatigue or suddenly becoming tired easily may also be signs of a concussion. Some children with concussions also experience:

  • A lack of interest in favorite activities or toys
  • Noticeable changes in sleeping habits or patterns
  • Unsteady walking or a loss of balance
  • Changes in normal eating patterns

When to See a Doctor for a Concussion

Immediate medical treatment should be sought if a concussion is accompanied by a loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds, ongoing vomiting, severe headaches, and visible confusion or lack of coordination that includes stumbling and disorientation. If your child experienced a hard fall or impact and is immediately alert and appears to be functioning normally, the concussion is likely mild. Even so, it’s best to err on the side of caution and see a doctor for an initial evaluation.

A doctor will perform a thorough evaluation that include a physical exam, a discussion of what happened, and an assessment of reflexes and mental alertness. Confirmation of a concussion typically involves image tests such as an MRI or CT scan and a series of neurological tests to check strength and sensation and balance and coordination. Regardless of the degree of the type of symptoms you may be experiencing following a significant blow to your head, neck, or upper body, concussions should not be ignored.

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