It's important for anyone who has a head injury to be evaluated by a doctor, 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 and mentally. Avoid sports or vigorous physical activities and minimize difficult, stressful or prolonged mental tasks.
At the time you make the appointment, ask what steps you or your child should take 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 the length of time you or your child have been experiencing them.
- 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. 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?
- I have other medical problems. How can they be managed together?
- 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 before 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 weightlifting.
Also, minimize activities that increase your symptoms, such as those that require a significant amount of focused attention. Examples include working on the computer, schoolwork, watching TV, texting or playing video games.
If you have a headache, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may ease the pain. Avoid taking other pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) if you suspect you've had a concussion. It's possible that these may increase the risk of bleeding.
April 02, 2014
- Evans RW. Concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Halstead ME, et al. Sports-related concussion in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2010;126:597.
- Concussion: What can I do to feel better after a concussion? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/feel_better.html. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Heads up: Concussion in youth sports. A fact sheet for parents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Heads up: Facts for physicians about mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/physicians_tool_kit.html. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Head injury. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/Head-Injury.aspx. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.
- Schutzman S. Minor head trauma in infants and children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 31, 2013.
- Giza CC, et al. Summary of evidence-based guideline update: Evaluation and management of concussion in sports: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2013;80:2250.
- McCrory P, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: The 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Journal of Athletic Training. 2013;48:554.
- Wetjen NM, et al. Second impact syndrome: Concussion and second injury brain complications. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2010;211:553.
- Halstead ME, et al. Returning to learning following a concussion. Pediatrics. 2013;132:948.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Oct. 31, 2013.
- Brown AW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 19, 2013.
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