Children's Health

Identifying and Treating Concussions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly seven percent of kids and teens suffer a concussion. That number increases with age. By the time kids reach ages 12-17, about 12 percent suffer a concussion. Fortunately, most are able to make a full recovery with early recognition of symptoms and proper treatment.

A concussion is a mild, traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to rapidly move back and forth. Although any injury that affects the brain is cause for concern, the good news is that most concussions are mild and allow for a complete recovery.

Here are some of the most common symptoms that may indicate your child has a concussion:

  • Confusion
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Balance issues
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light or noise sensitivity

If you suspect your child has a concussion, monitor them closely and watch for red flag symptoms: prolonged loss of consciousness, increasing symptoms or deterioration, recurrent vomiting, focal symptoms (one side of the body – for example, pupils that are different sizes) changes in language. If your child has any of these symptoms, you should go to the emergency room for a CT scan.

If you don’t observe red flag symptoms, it’s appropriate to continue monitoring your child at home and get assessed by a medical professional within a day or two after injury. Your doctor will ask questions about what happened when the injury occurred and make recommendations for how much rest your child needs and a plan to return to normal activities.

Most concussion cases are treated at home with rest for up to a few days followed by a gradual return to normal activities. If any activities cause symptoms to worsen, short breaks may be needed. For example, some kids may require a shorter school day or a reduced course load while they recover. It’s also a good idea to focus on eating healthy meals and snacks, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and reducing screen time. Although many patients wonder if dietary changes or taking supplements will help speed recovery, there’s not good medical evidence that these things help speed recovery. Most kids will feel better within a couple of weeks.

NorthShore University HealthSystem is on the cutting edge of concussion care, using new technologies for diagnosis. Our emergency rooms use BrainScope, a non-invasive device that allows providers to assess head injuries and understand if a patient is at a higher risk for intracranial bleeding. If bleeding within the brain is suspected by BrainScope, patients are referred for a CT scan. If they are at a lower risk, a CT scan may be skipped, which reduces unnecessary radiation risk and lowers costs.

Our Concussion Clinic features a multidisciplinary team that offers a full spectrum of concussion and head injury assessment and treatment strategies, as well as a program to promote long-term brain health with appropriate counseling, testing, and reduction of risk factors. Our Glenview location offers a comprehensive assessment with exercise testing, concussion physical therapists and a concussion neuropsychologist to best assess athletes and complicated injury.

To learn more about concussion care at NorthShore, visit us online or call 847-982-4195.