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How to care for your child after a concussion

Children that participate in sports like soccer, football or hockey have an increased risk of sustaining a concussion. New research has revealed that children who suffer a concussion heal differently than adults.

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found for children under 13, concussion symptoms usually last three times longer than for older teens and adults. The symptoms may last longer due to underlying issues like ADHD, anxiety, stress or depression. On average, symptoms last about four weeks for kids in this age range.

Despite the longer recovery period, research has also shown that a more active recovery is better for younger children. That does not mean your child should immediately return to the soccer field. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released specific guidelines both for medical professionals treating children and for parents after they take their children home.

First, it is important to understand concussion symptoms your child may experience. These include:

  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Dizziness or balance issues
  • Headaches
  • Vision issues
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Quick to anger
  • More emotional
  • Sleeping more
  • Having trouble sleeping

The first few days after the concussion

You probably want to keep your child home for school for the first few days. You should also limit his or her activities that involve thinking or remembering. Instead, engage in relaxing activities at home that do not involve any risk for injury. Make sure your child gets a full night of rest and takes any needed naps during the day.

A few days following the injury

If your child’s symptoms seem to be improving, he or she can return to school slowly. You can start with shorter days, more rest breaks or ask for longer time for your child to complete assignments. You should encourage your child to spend time outside, perhaps taking short walks. If an activity causes your child’s symptoms to worsen, you should stop the activity until it does not cause symptoms. Getting a full night’s sleep is recommended, as well as limiting screen time before bed.

After you notice few symptoms

When you notice your child is experiencing few if any concussion symptoms, he or she can return to school full time. If symptoms worsen, encourage your child to take a break. Continue to push your child to child to spend time outside, including bike rides and time on the playground, as long as this does not include activities that could cause head injuries.

When your child is experiencing no symptoms

After you notice your child is no longer experiencing any symptoms, visit your doctor. Your doctor can clear him or her to participate in sports again. The doctor will also provide instructions about how your child should participate in future sports activities. You will want to share this information with your child’s coach or trainer.

A child that has suffered a concussion should only return to sports after he or she is cleared by a doctor. This will help prevent your child from suffering additional injury that could make the effects long-lasting. If concussion symptoms worsen during recovery, you should also reach out your doctor.

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