Concussions in Kids

You may think that concussions only happen to football players. But that’s not the case. Concussions can happen for all sorts of reasons, including a bike crash, a fall on the playground, or, yes, while playing sports. Another myth: You don’t have to lose consciousness to experience a concussion. You don’t even have to get hit in the head. A blow to the body that causes the head to move back and forth can cause a concussion as well.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Traumatic brain injury sounds scary—and concussions can be quite serious. But the effects are usually temporary and not life threatening. They can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination.

It’s important to note that once your child has experienced a concussion, the risk of having another goes up. And a second concussion can be more severe. Knowing what to look for after a blow to the head is important so you can take steps to prevent more serious damage in the future.

Path to improved health

A concussion is not like a cut or bruise you can see on the outside. It can be easy to miss, particularly early on when there may be no outward signs. Concussion symptoms can show up a few days to a few weeks after an injury. If you think your child may have suffered a concussion, be on the lookout for the following in him or her:

  • Dazed or stunned appearance.

  • Confusion about what’s going on.

  • Forgetting instructions.

  • Clumsy movement.

  • Answering questions slowly.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Mood swings or behavior changes.

Additionally, if your child is old enough, they might tell you they’re experiencing:

  • Headache or feeling pressure in the head.

  • Problems concentrating.

  • Confusion or memory problems.

  • Balance problems or dizziness.

  • Nausea.

  • Fuzzy or blurry vision.

  • Sensitivity to light or noise.

  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, groggy, or just plain “off.”

  • Feeling irritable, nervous, or anxious.

  • Sleep changes.

If your child has any of the above symptoms, see their doctor right away. The doctor will ask about the injury and do a physical examination. He or she may test your child’s strength, senses, balances, reflexes, and memory. Depending on what they find, they may order medical tests, such as a CT scan.

If your child’s concussion is mild, rest may be the only treatment. That means keeping to a regular schedule, no late nights, and no sleepovers. Rest also involves a mental time out. No using a computer, cell phone, or other electronic devices. Schoolwork, homework, and even reading and watching television should be stopped or limited, depending on the doctor’s directions.

Don’t give your child any medicines unless your doctor has approved them. Your doctor will monitor your child and let you know exactly when he or she can return to school and to normal activities. It is no longer necessary for you to wake your child throughout the night after a head injury.

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain. This increases pressure in the area against the skull. This can be life threatening and requires immediate treatment. Call 911 or take him or her to the emergency room right away if your child shows any of the following signs:

  • Looks very drowsy or can’t wake up.

  • One pupil is larger than the other.

  • Has convulsions or seizures.

  • Can’t recognize people or places.

  • Is getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.

  • Has unusual behavior.

  • Has slurred speech.

  • Complains of a headache that doesn’t go away or gets worse.

  • Vomits.

  • Loses consciousness, even briefly.

  • Will not stop crying and cannot be consoled.

  • Will not eat (or nurse, with babies).

Things to consider

If your child is hurt during a sports game, do not allow them to continue playing if you suspect they might have a concussion. Children who return to the game before the brain is fully healed risk a greater chance of having a second—and worse—concussion. Repeated concussions may have serious long-term problems, including difficulty with concentration, memory, headache, and even permanent brain damage. Always wait until a healthcare professional says it’s okay for your child to return to the game.

Prevention is key. When playing sports, safety should always be the No. 1 priority. Tell your child’s coach about a previous concussion. Make sure your child follows all the safety rules of the game. Children must wear the proper protective gear, including helmets that fit properly and are well maintained at all times when playing sports or riding bikes, skateboards, etc. Keep in mind, however, that there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet. Children should always take care not to get hit—and not to hit others—in the head.

If you have younger children, childproof your home. Babies will reach for whatever they can to pull themselves up, which can result in falls and head injuries. Use stair gates at the top and bottom of every staircase. Create a safe space for your baby to play, and never leave him or her unattended. Always use car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts properly. At the playground, make sure there’s soft material like mulch or sand under swing and play sets (not grass or dirt).

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Will my child need to take any special precautions when playing sports in the future?

  • Should my child be taking any medications?

  • When will my child be able to resume his normal activities?

  • Should I wake my child up every hour tonight?

  • What signs should I be looking for to warrant a trip to the emergency room?

  • This is my child’s second concussion. Should he stop playing sports altogether?

Women’s Health Tips for Heart, Mind

Looking for the path toward a healthier you? It's not hard to find. The journey begins with some simple tweaks to your lifestyle. The right diet, exercise, and stress-relief plan all play a big role.

Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

There's an easy recipe if your goal is to keep away problems like heart disease and strokes.

  • Eat more fruits and veggies.

  • Choose whole grains. Try brown rice instead of white. Switch to whole wheat pasta.

  • Choose lean proteins like poultry, fish, beans, and legumes.

  • Cut down on processed foods, sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

When eating healthy, flexibility often works best, says Joyce Meng, MD, assistant professor at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. If you like to follow a strict diet plan, go for it. If not, it's OK. "Find what works for you."

Tricia Montgomery, 52, the founder of K9 Fit Club, knows first-hand how the right diet and lifestyle can help. For her, choosing healthy foods and planning small, frequent meals works well. "I don't deny myself anything," she says. "I still have dessert -- key lime pie, yum! -- and I love frozen gummy bears, but moderation is key."

Exercise Every Day

The more active you are, the better, Meng says. Exercise boosts your heart health, builds muscle and bone strength, and wards off health problems.

Aim for 2 and a half hours of moderate activity, like brisk walking or dancing, every week. If you're OK with vigorous exercise, stick to 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of things like running or playing tennis. Add a couple of days of strength training, too.

If you're busy, try short bursts of activity throughout the day. Walk often. A good target is 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs. Park your car far away from your destination.

Montgomery exercises every day, often with her dog. By adding lunges, squats, and stairs to a walk, she turns it into a power workout. "I also am a huge Pilates fan," she says.

Lose Weight

When you shed pounds you'll lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Factors of good health

Health is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in 1946 as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

Generally, the context in which an individual lives is of great importance on health status and quality of life. It is increasingly recognized that health is maintained and improved not only through the advancement and application of health science, but also through the efforts and intelligent lifestyle choices of the individual and society. According to the World Health Organization, the main determinants of health include the social and economic environment, the physical environment, and the person's individual characteristics and behaviors. In fact, an increasing number of studies and reports from different organizations and contexts examine the linkages between health and different factors, including lifestyles, environments, health care organization, and health policy.

Focusing more on lifestyle issues and their relationships with functional health, data from different studies suggested that people can improve their health via:

  • exercise,

  • enough sleep,

  • maintaining a healthy body weight,

  • limiting alcohol use,

  • and avoiding smoking.

In addition to that, the ability to adapt and to self manage have been suggested as core components of human health.

Personal health also depends partially on the social structure of a person's life. The maintenance of strong social relationships, volunteering, and other social activities have been linked to positive mental health and even increased longevity. In contrast, prolonged psychological stress may negatively impact health, and has been cited as a factor in cognitive impairment with aging, depressive illness, and expression of disease.

Handling and preparing food

Ensure work surfaces, utensils and cutting boards have been cleaned and sanitised before being used to handle and prepare food. Safe food handling and preparation practices include:

  • washing hands well in soapy water for at least 10 to 15 seconds before preparing food, before eating and after touching raw meats and eggs

  • asking other people to prepare food if you are not feeling well

  • never placing cooked foods on dishes that have contained raw products such as meat, poultry and fish, unless the plates have been thoroughly washed first

  • never use a sauce on cooked food if it has been previously used to marinate raw meat or seafood, unless the marinade has been cooked first or will be cooked. For example, do not spoon the uncooked juices or marinade over the cooked food and serve. The uncooked marinade will probably contain harmful bacteria.

All fruit and vegetables (including salads) should be thoroughly washed if they are to be eaten raw.

Sprouts and herbs should be rinsed before serving.

Perishable foods should not be left unrefrigerated for long periods of time. If perishable foods have to be out of refrigeration, the following time limits can be applied to ensure that they remain safe to eat.