Dr Ranj investigates concussion - do you know what to do?
Do you know when a bump on the head is much more to worry about? Knowing so could save a life. Every summer Dr Ranj sees a rise in the number of patients with concussion. Whilst we talk about it a lot when it comes to sportsmen and women - it’s a risk for everyone.
Today Dr Ranj is here to explain just what concussion really is, how to spot the signs and symptoms, and what to do if you’re worried.
WHAT IS CONCUSSION?
Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that may alter the way your brain functions. Despite the idea that concussion isn't serious, it can cause substantial difficulties or impairments that can last a lifetime. A concussion can be caused by direct blows to the head. And while we often hear about concussions in sport, most concussions happen off the playing field. Children can suffer a concussion often from a simple fall.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Signs of a concussion usually appear within a few minutes or hours of a head injury. But occasionally they may not be obvious for a few days, so it's important to look out for any problems in the days following a head injury. Concussion can be harder to spot in babies and young children. One of the main things to look for is a change in their normal behaviour after a head injury, such as crying a lot, a change in their feeding or sleeping habits, or a loss of interest in people or objects.
- A headache that doesn't go away or isn't relieved with painkillers
- Feeling sick or vomiting
- Memory loss you may not remember what happened before or after the injury
- Clumsiness or trouble with balance
- Unusual behaviour you may become irritated easily or have sudden mood swings
- Feeling stunned, dazed or confused
- Changes in your vision such as blurred vision, double vision or "seeing stars"
- Being knocked out or struggling to stay awake
WHAT TO DO FOLLOWING A CONCUSSION?
You don't usually need to get immediate medical advice if you only have mild symptoms that don't last long after a head injury, such as a headache it will go away on its own or can be relieved by painkillers
WHEN TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL?
Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if you've injured your head and have the following:
- You've woken up after being knocked out
- Problems with your memory
- A headache that doesn't go away
- Been vomiting since the injury
- You spot changes in your behaviour, such as becoming more irritable
- You had an operation on your brain in the past or are taking blood-thinning medicine such as warfarin
- You've been drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs
Does concussion only happen with a blow to the head?
Not all concussions are the result of a blow to the head. The cause could be an indirect blow somewhere else on the body that results in the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth. This causes a temporary change in the brain's energy metabolism, resulting in concussion symptoms.
Are dilated pupils a sign of concussion?
Pupil dilation is not a reliable sign of concussion, particularly when both pupils are dilated equally. Our pupils can become dilated when the autonomic nervous system's sympathetic branch is stimulated and the fight or flight response is triggered. This can happen when the body is under stress due to excitement, nervousness or anxiety.
Should pain medication never be given after a concussion?
Over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be recommended to help reduce pain associated with a concussion but it should not be given until four hours after the concussion due to the rare possibility of a brain bleed.
Is it a good sign if the head swells?
Mild, localised head swelling after a bump is not unusual and usually not serious. Seek medical advice if swelling is large (over 5 cm), boggy, or you think there might be a defect in the bone underneath.
Is it good if a baby cries after a bump?
Crying is not a reliable sign as to seriousness. Child may not cry if they are dazed/confused, or if the injury is not significant. Likewise the child may cry if they are in pain, scared, shocked, stressed, or have a significant brain injury. Persistent crying that doesn’t settle over a long time with simple measures in small children is a potentially worrying sign.