Pediatric concussions are traumatic brain injuries. The concussion temporarily changes your child’s ability to function normally both mentally and physically. Headaches, balance problems, nausea, sensitivity to bright light and noise, and inability to concentrate are just some of the symptoms your child may have after a concussion. The trauma affects their school, home, and social life.
Pediatric neurologist, Dr. Charles Niesen, and our team at AMS Neurology in Pasadena, California, administer neurological and cognitive exams to your child to diagnose a concussion. Dr. Niesen may order an MRI or CT scan as well.
We guide phased concussion recovery and explain steps you can take to ensure your child avoids complications. Dr. Niesen explains how important it is to follow the guidance and discusses possible complications that can arise when recommendations aren’t heeded.
When your school-age child has had a concussion, make sure all relevant parties know about it and provide written guidance to them on what Dr. Niesen recommends at each stage of recovery.
This means not only their teachers and coaches, but also school nurses and counselors, trainers, and other administrators. Mixed messages cause confusion and result in your child doing something that isn’t safe.
Mental rest is essential to help your child’s brain heal. That means a break from schoolwork and screen use. Even though your child has a headache, they may still want to play video games or spend time online. Taking a break from technology and schoolwork is essential.
Dr. Niesen provides guidance on whether your child should be watching TV, using their computer, doing homework, texting, listening to loud music, going to parties, driving, or working. All of these activities involve your child’s brain processing information, which takes mental effort.
Your child may be worried they’ll fall behind in school. Dr. Niesen makes recommendations about academic accommodations your child needs, such as a medical absence, makeup tutoring, or extra time on tests. He provides written guidance for the school. You can monitor the situation to ensure that it’s being followed.
Your child’s concussion recovery may start with a medical absence from school with required physical and mental rest. It could progress to attending school for a half-day, focusing on core classes, shortening assignments, and curtailing homework.
When your child is back in school full-time, accommodations such as taking only one test per day or working only on in-class materials may be needed. When introducing a trigger for a symptom, make sure your child remains symptom-free.
Your child shouldn’t engage in physical activity that raises their heart rate until Dr. Niesen gives the green light. This includes horsing around with a sibling, sports, gym class, dancing, and other aerobic activities. Your loved one needs good quality sleep and should take naps in the days following their injury.
Too much physical activity too soon can result in second impact syndrome (SIS), where your child receives another head injury before they’re healed from their concussion. SIS can lead to an abnormal buildup of pressure in their brain and can potentially be fatal.
Your child or teen may forget the importance of not running around too soon. It’s essential to remind them about the dire consequences that could change the trajectory of their life. Instead of vigorous activity, take nature walks with your child when they’re up to it and enjoy peaceful time together.
Before returning to gym class or sports, your child should be free of symptoms and back in school full time. Dr. Niesen approves a gradual progression in physical activity and provides written guidance that you can use to update their care team.
If symptoms return, your child’s brain needs more rest. Make sure your child knows how important it is to communicate with you honestly about how they’re feeling.