Concussions in children can happen at any age – it’s just part of being an active kid. It might be a fall, a car crash, or a sports injury. No matter how a concussion happens, the symptoms don’t always develop right away.
It may take days before signs of a problem might appear. That’s why many kids, unaware they’ve been hurt, try to pick themselves up and get back to whatever they were doing, which is dangerous. If you suspect your child has had a concussion, remove him or her from activities and get an evaluation from your health care provider. Concussions in children require medical attention, lots of rest and a slow, careful return to daily routines under a doctor’s care.
When to Be Seen for a Concussion
In this video, Dr, Marcantuono from Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children explains the signs to look out for after your child has a head injury.
Learn more about concussions from Dr. Marcantuono:
More on Concussions in Children & Teens
If you think your child might have a concussion, be on the lookout for changes.
Symptoms of concussions in children that might occur immediately after injury include:
- nausea and/or vomiting
- blurred vision
- memory difficulties surrounding the injury
- balance difficulties
Symptoms after the injury might include:
- balance problems
- behavior or personality changes
- confusion or difficulty remembering things
- difficulty paying attention
- feeling foggy
- double or blurry vision
- irritability or a change in behavior
- feeling more emotional
- nausea and/or vomiting
- reduced energy level (tiredness)
- sensitivity to light or noise
- trouble falling asleep or a change in sleep patterns
- changes in school performance
Sometimes, concussion symptoms get worse slowly over time.
Seek immediate help if your child develops more severe symptoms like these (even after a visit to a doctor):
- headaches that get worse
- extreme sleepiness or trouble waking up
- weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- slurred speech
Follow these next steps after your child comes home from the Emergency Department or doctor’s office following a concussion:
- Follow any instructions provided to you
- Keep your child home from school for at least two to three days or until cleared by your doctor
- Bring your child to your Primary Care Physician for a follow-up visit two or three days after the incident. Your doctor should determine when it’s OK to return to school and can help answer your questions about managing any symptoms
- See the doctor who treated your child’s concussion if your child continues to experience symptoms five to seven days after the incident
Even if symptoms go away, see your neurologist or specialist
if your child has:
- had a concussion before
- a history of learning disabilities
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- mood disorders
Here are some things to keep in mind about concussion in children:
- Keep your child from participating in normal activities until you get the go-ahead from your doctor. Normal activities include: school attendance, gym class, sports and extracurricular physical activities, and rough housing with siblings and friends. And that’s even if your child has been seen by a school nurse and even if your child feels ready. It takes time and rest to heal from a concussion. When kids get repeat concussions, the damage can be much more severe and long-lasting
- Be sure to inform anyone who might be supervising or taking care of your child after a concussion – babysitters, relatives, teachers, school officials, coaches, and child care workers – so they can also make sure your child is following the doctor’s orders
- Allow your child to ease back into the daily routine slowly, with guidance from your doctor, one activity at a time – never all at once
- Consider baseline cognitive testing (ImPACT or similar) if your child plans to participate in sports. This provides an objective measure of how your child’s brain functions normally so we can have something to compare to if your child does get a concussion later
Here are some common-sense steps you can take to help prevent concussion in children:
- Have your child wear a properly fitting, appropriate helmet when riding a bike or playing contact sports
- Make sure your child knows and follows sports rules
- Childproof your home
- Follow car seat, booster seat, and seatbelt recommendations for all ages
From Nemours' KidsHealth
Trusted External Resources
Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents
When was the last time you crawled around your home on your hands and knees? As strange as it sounds, give it a go. Kids explore their everyday environments, so it's crucial to check things out from their perspective to make sure your home is safe.
And though we often think of babies and toddlers when we hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under, with more than a third of these injuries happening at home.
Household injuries are one of the top reasons kids under age 3 visit the ER, and nearly 70% of the children who die from unintentional injuries at home are 4 years old and under. Young kids have the highest risk of being injured at home because that's where they spend most of their time.
Supervision is the best way to prevent injuries, in the home and out, but even the most watchful parents can't keep kids completely out of harm's way every second of the day.
Here are some simple ways to help prevent injuries in your own home.
Accidents That Can Happen at Home
The common causes of home-injury deaths are fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning, and firearms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most home accidents happen where there's:
- water: in the bathroom, kitchen, swimming pools, or hot tubs
- heat or flames: in the kitchen or at a barbecue grill
- toxic substances: under the kitchen sink, in the medicine cabinet, in the garage or garden shed, or even in a purse or other place where medications are stored
- potential for a fall: on stairs, slippery floors, from high windows, or from tipping furniture
You can take precautions to make these places safer, but the most important thing to remember is to watch young kids at all times. Even if your home is childproofed, it only takes an instant for babies and toddlers to fall, run over to a hot stove, or put the wrong thing in their mouths. Your watchfulness is your child's best defense.
However, accidents will still happen, so it's important to be prepared. If you're expecting a baby or have kids, it's wise to:
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the age-appropriate Heimlich maneuver.
- Keep the following near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
- poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
- doctor's number
- parents' work and cell phone numbers
- neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other kids in case of an emergency)
- Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check out these Household Safety articles for more information:
- Preventing Injuries From Falling, Climbing, and Grabbing
- Preventing Burns, Shocks, and Fires
- Preventing Strangulation and Entrapment
- Preventing Suffocation
- Preventing Choking
- Preventing Poisoning
- Preventing Drowning
- Preventing Cuts
- Preventing Injuries in the Crib
- Preventing Injuries From Firearms
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD