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Do You Think You Have a Concussion? You Should Go to the ER

A concussion is a type of injury that involves trauma to your head and brain. It can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including reduced cognitive abilities. Some physicians refer to concussions as mild traumatic brain injuries, although the severity of the concussion varies from one person to another.

Familiarizing yourself with common causes and symptoms of concussions can help you get the medical attention you need as soon as possible. Many symptoms may require a trip to the Emergency Room to receive a timely diagnosis and get started with your recovery.

Concussion Causes and Risk Factors

Most concussions happen due to a violent blow to your head or neck, causing trauma to your brain. In turn, it can negatively affect your brain function even for a short time. It may also cause bleeding in the brain, which if left untreated, can be life-threatening. Even a blow to your jawline may lead to a concussion depending on the angle and severity of impact.

Concussion risk factors include:

  • A history of previous concussions
  • Contact sports like football or boxing
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents
  • Physical abuse

Common Concussion Symptoms in Adults

  • Blurry vision.
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs
  • Ringing or bleeding in the ears
  • Sensory overload
  • Sleep issues

If symptoms are mild and you do not seek medical attention right away, you should carefully track their changes in the following hours. If any symptoms persist or aggravate, you should go to the ER.

Concussion Signs to Watch Out for in Children and Teens

Due to their growth which can involve quick height and weight gain, children and adolescents are generally more likely to have an accident that results in a head injury. If you know your child had a head injury but does not present any acute signs that require emergency attention like loss of consciousness, you should monitor them for additional symptoms in the following 24 hours.

You should also avoid giving them any medication as those could have undesirable side effects, especially if your child or teenager indeed has a concussion. In case of doubt, you should take them to the ER.

Common signs of concussion in children and adolescents include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced balance
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disruptions

If your infant or toddler had a head injury, watching them closely is especially crucial because they may not be able to properly communicate how they feel yet. If you notice increased irritability or confused facial expressions, those may indicate a concussion. Unusual and persistent crying, changes in their eating habits, or a sudden disinterest in their favorite toys and activities are also signs that your child needs medical attention.

How Can ER Physicians Diagnose Concussions?

If you can have a list of your symptoms, including their onset, frequency, and severity, you should bring it to the ER. A physician usually begins with a thorough physical examination and a discussion of your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms and age, ER doctors can then use various diagnostic tools to determine the cause of your problems.

Neurological tests are common methods to identify a concussion and they generally assess:

  • Motor skills
  • Hearing
  • Speech
  • Vision
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Mood and behavior
  • Cognitive faculties

These tests may be computerized, and if your teenager participates in sports, they may go through this type of evaluation right after a head injury even before going to the ER. The support team usually has a baseline captured at the beginning of a training session to compare the post-injury results.

At the ER, the physicians may also request a brain CT scan and/or MRI to check for bleeding, swelling, or any other abnormality. However, a concussion is not always visible on those medical images and those tests are only one component of a diagnostic protocol.

Treatment Options for Concussions

Mild to moderate concussions generally do not require hospitalizations and your doctor can let someone drive you home after the examination and any applicable testing. The ER physician can recommend a follow-up appointment with a medical provider within the following 72 hours.

Rest plays a central role in your recovery. You may want to avoid certain activities that can trigger your symptoms like looking at screens or any moderate to high-impact physical activity. The doctor may prescribe taking aspirin-free painkillers.

If you practice sports, especially contact ones, you should get a doctor’s approval before resuming training. You may also need to wear adequate protective gear to prevent future injuries.

How Long Does It Take to Recovery from a Concussion?

Many people who have a concussion can expect to recover fully within one or two weeks if they follow their doctor’s instructions. Getting timely medical care and going to the ER can make a significant difference in preventing lasting consequences such as post-traumatic headaches or vertigo.

If you or a loved one is experiencing concussion symptoms in Dallas, contact Advance ER at (214) 494-8222 to talk to a medical professional.