Children and teens should see the doctor for any signs of a concussion; sometimes symptoms don’t show up for several days

A person doesn’t have to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek medical attention quickly if warning signs appear.

Children hit their heads fairly often and are usually able to bounce back quickly, but that is less likely the older they get, according to Harris Health System, located in Texas.

“Children’s brains have the ability to regenerate after a concussion (or less serious head injury),” Dr. Shankar Gopinath, chief of neurosurgery at Ben Taub Hospital and associate professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine, said in the news release. “Which is advice to be taken with a grain of salt, since parents should still consult their physician after an incident involving a head injury.”

Common Symptoms of a Concussion
graphic: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

A concussion is a mild form of a traumatic brain injury that occurs from a mild blow, bump or jolt to the head. Some people lose consciousness, but most do not. The leading causes of concussions are falls, motor-vehicle-related injuries, unintentionally being hit in the head with an object, assault or playing sports, says the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky website.

Concussion symptoms are similar in infants, children and adolescents, but there are some differences.

The most obvious symptom in infants is a loss of consciousness, but other signs include crying inconsolably, vomiting and excessive sleepiness. Refusing to eat, prolonged irritability or unusual or prolonged periods of quietness or inactivity are also signs of a concussion or a more serious injury, says the release. All of these symptoms call for an immediate trip to the doctor.

In addition to loss of consciousness, concussion symptoms in older children include severe headache, difficulty with bright lights or loud noises, blurred vision, trouble walking, memory loss, feeling mentally “foggy,” confusion and saying things that don’t make sense, slurred speech and unresponsiveness, irritability, sadness or nervousness and changes in sleep patterns, says the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky.

“Repeated concussions can cause permanent changes neurologically,” Dr. Asim Shah, chief of psychiatry, Ben Taub Hospital and professor at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry Baylor College of Medicine, said in the Harris Health release. “Sometimes even the ability to learn something new [cognition] lowers significantly.”

WebMD notes that symptoms of a concussion don’t always show up right away, and can develop within 24 to 72 hours after an injury. And while most children and teens recover quickly from concussion, some symptoms, like memory loss, headaches and problems with concentration, may linger for weeks or months. You should also contact your doctor if symptoms are lingering.

Experts at Harris Health emphasized the importance of children and teens being treated quickly and checked by a physician when warning signs of a concussion appear. WebMD says: “An undiagnosed concussion can put someone at risk for brain damage and even disability.”

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