It's important for anyone who has a head injury to be evaluated by a doctor within a day or two of the injury, even if emergency care isn't required.
If your child has received a head injury that concerns you, call your child's doctor immediately. Depending on the signs and symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeking immediate medical care.
Here's some information to help you get ready for and make the most of your medical appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions or instructions. The most important thing for you to do while waiting for your appointment is to rest your brain physically — avoid sports or vigorous physical activities — and mentally — minimize difficult, stressful or prolonged mental tasks. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there are any steps you or your child should be following to encourage recovery or prevent re-injury. Experts recommend that athletes not return to play until they have been medically evaluated.
- List any symptoms you or your child have been experiencing, and for how long.
- Write down key medical information, including other medical problems for which you or your child are being treated and any history of previous head injuries. Also write down the names of any medications, vitamins, supplements or other natural remedies you or your child are taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if you are the one with the head injury. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For a concussion, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Is it a concussion?
- What kinds of tests are needed?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- How soon will symptoms begin to improve?
- What is the risk of future concussions?
- What is the risk of long-term complications?
- When will it be safe to return to competitive sports?
- When will it be safe to resume vigorous exercise?
- Is it safe to return to school or work?
- Is it safe to drive a car or operate power equipment?
- Should a specialist be consulted? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist? You may need to call your insurance provider for some of these answers.
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Being ready to answer your doctor's questions may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth.
You or your child should be prepared to answer the following questions about the injury and related signs and symptoms:
- Do you play contact sports?
- How did you get this injury?
- What symptoms did you experience immediately after the injury?
- Do you remember what happened right before and after the injury?
- Did you lose consciousness after the injury?
- Did you have seizures?
- Have you experienced nausea or vomiting since the injury?
- Have you had a headache? How soon after the injury did it start?
- Have you noticed any difficulty with physical coordination since the injury?
- Have you had any problems with memory or concentration since the injury?
- Have you noticed any sensitivity or problems with your vision and hearing?
- Have you had any mood changes, including irritability, anxiety or depression?
- Have you felt lethargic or easily fatigued since the injury?
- Are you having trouble sleeping or waking from sleep?
- Have you noticed changes in your sense of smell or taste?
- Do you have any dizziness or vertigo?
- What other signs or symptoms are you concerned about?
- Have you had any previous head injuries?
What you can do in the meantime
Rest as much as possible in the time leading up to your appointment. This includes avoiding sports or other physical activities that increase your heart rate, such as prolonged walking, or require vigorous muscle contractions, such as weight lifting. Also, minimize activities that require lots of focused attention — for example, working on the computer, watching TV, texting or playing video games.
If you have a headache, take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to ease pain. Avoid taking other pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) if you suspect you've had a concussion. It's possible that these may increase the risk of bleeding.
Feb. 22, 2011
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