What To Do When Your Child Has a Concussion

Doctor examining young girl
Adie Bush/Cultura/Blend

If you just got a phone call from your child's school or sports coach saying that your child may have a head injury or concussion, you are probably trying to figure out quickly what your next steps are.  Medical research in recent years has shown that when children and teens who suffer a concussion do not get adequate treatment and recovery time there can be long term consequences.  Concussion treatment today involves mental and physical rest and a slow and cautious return in order to provide the best concussion recovery.

 Here are the steps you need to take to be sure that your child will be able to get the right treatment and rest to recover from their concussion

Get Your Child Seen By A Medical Professional  

First, you need to know if your child has a concussion and if there are any other injuries that they have received.  If your child is found to have a concussion, you will need to share the doctor's diagnosis with the school (see below, Work With The School To Coordinate School Expectations During Recovery.)

Make Sure You Understand What Concussion Symptoms Your Child Has  

While concussions do share a certain set of symptoms, each concussion itself can have different symptoms based on exactly which parts of the brain have been injured.  In one case, a child or teen may be sensitive to light while another case there may be sound sensitivity - or both light and sound sensitivity.  Knowing what symptoms your child has will help you to monitor your child's recovery.

Get A Written Copy of What the Doctor Recommends For Your Child To Heal  

Your child's doctor will create a rest and recovery plan for your child based on their unique symptoms.  Most likely, your child will be told to avoid any activity that requires any kind of thought for a few days, followed by slowly adding back physical and mental activity.

 Today's young children and teens find the "do nothing" time very difficult, as they must avoid electronic media.  Concussions are a brain injury, and the brain must rest in order to recover.  

Don't Expect A Straightforward Recovery  

The developing, growing brains of children and teens makes for a slow concussion recovery.  The recovery requires a significant time of mental and physical rest  often the only way to know how much your child can handle is seeing when they experience a return or increase in concussion symptoms, making it very easy for your child to push a little too far.  Once they do experience a return or increase in symptoms, they usually have to cut back again on their activity level.  This leads to a two steps forward, one step back zigzag recovery.

Notify Your Child's School Right Away About the Concussion Diagnosis  

Schools across the nation have put concussion policies and protocols into place in their schools.  Once the school is aware that your child has a concussion, they can begin to excuse or reduce assignments and begin working with your doctors recommendations to make sure that your child is able to recover.

 Without an official diagnosis from a medical professional, your child may not be able to reduce their schoolwork load enough to allow for a recovery. 

Work With the School To Coordinate School Expectations During Recovery  

Your child's school will have a concussion policy in place.  Find out exactly how the school and teachers handle the recovery period of a concussion and make sure that you let the school know when symptoms increase.  The best way to advocate for your child is to make sure that you keep the lines of communication open.

Follow The Protocol Given By Your Doctor  

Be sure to follow the doctor's orders.  Each concussion is unique, and your doctor's orders will outline the best practices for concussion recovery not only for your child's given age, but also matched to severity and symptoms.  Your child will find the recovery period boring.  Regardless, don't jump ahead and push too hard during recovery, as this will lead to setbacks and an even longer recovery period.

Follow-Up As Needed

 If recovery takes an unusually long amount of time, if your child doesn't seem to be improving, or worse, they get a second concussion during the recovery period, be sure to follow-up with your child's doctor.  Let the school know about the recovery progress.  Recovering from concussions is a lengthy and challenging process.  Your child's brain is important enough to take the time to do it right.

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