Traumatic Brain Injury – Causes of Concussion and Symptoms in Babies Children and Adults

Traumatic Brain Injury – Causes of Concussion and Symptoms in Babies Children and Adults

Head injuries can be mild but often misunderstood or misdiagnosed for a more serious injury. These injuries might go unnoticed for a long time due to mild symptoms but it is extremely important to go through diagnosis to prevent any fatal long-term complications. We will be discussing one such brain injury in this article.  

Concussion

The condition refers to a mild traumatic brain injury that can affect the functioning of the brain. The injury can occur due to impact or blow to the head or some whiplash type impact causing the head to shake quickly back and forth. A concussion can lead to altered mental state that may result in unconsciousness.

How common is concussion?

It’s a very common condition as anyone right from the toddler to teens and adults can become injured due to an accident, falling or any other kind of daily physical activity. It is a common injury among footballers or boxers who have a greater chance of getting a concussion.

Typically, the condition is not life-threatening; however, it can cause severe symptoms that demand medical attention.

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Is there any difference between concussion and contusion?

Some people also get confused between concussion and contusion due to similarity in their nature of impact. However, concussion only affects the brain, but contusions are bruises which can occur on head. Contusions are not serious and resolve within a few days.

What causes concussions?

Our brain consists of gelatin which is cushioned everyday from jolts and bumps through the cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. A serious blow to the head, neck or upper body may cause the brain to shake back and forth forcefully against the inner walls of the skull.

Concussion can also occur due to a car crash or being violently shaken which accelerate or decelerates the head. Such events affect brain functioning, typically for a period of time, and causes symptoms such as confusion and drowsiness. The symptoms may develop instantly or later. Symptoms such as internal bleeding may be fatal and will need careful monitoring without delay.

What are the symptoms of concussion?

The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some people may lose consciousness, some may not. However, it is extremely important to recognize the symptoms you or your loved one are experiencing in order to avoid long-term complications.

Symptoms in adults

The symptoms may not develop immediately, but after days, weeks and even months after the injury. Check whether you have any of these signs:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Balancing problems
  • Light or noise sensitivity

Signs your loved one may not know

There are some cases when a friend or relative might be suffering from concussion and they don’t know it. Check whether you or your loved one have these signs and call emergency medical services:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of coordination
  • Unequal pupil size
  • Slurred speech
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Staying asleep (hypersomnia)

Symptoms in children

Head injury is very common among children. Some of the common signs include:

  • Tiring easily
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys
  • Crying excessively
  • Appearing dazed or mentally numbed

Symptoms of concussion in infant or babies

When it comes to babies, symptoms may vary. The signs might not be noticeable initially since babies do not exhibit symptoms such as slurred speech or walking difficulties. However, do take a note of below symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Drainage from ear, mouth or nose
  • Drowsiness

While in most cases, babies recover from concussion without any treatment. However, it is important to get them checked or seek immediate medical help in case the baby is unconscious.

Emergency symptoms – When to call the doctor?

As mentioned, concussion symptoms may or may not develop immediately. However, if an injury is accompanied by following signs and symptoms, call the emergency medical services without delay.

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Headache that gets worse over the time
  • Difficulty recognizing people or places
  • Large head bumps or bruises

Concussion in sports is common. If it is accompanied by neck, back or spine injury, prevent the affected person from moving and call an ambulance. If it is really necessary to move the person, do it carefully and try to keep his back and neck as stationary as possible.

An athlete should not return to play after the injury without physical evaluation even if he or she thinks that the injury is mild with no serious symptoms.

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How concussion is diagnosed?

If it is really a case of emergency, the doctor would be asking about the head injury and its symptoms followed by physical examination.

  1. Imaging test - In case the doctor suspects serious injuries, MRI or CT scan might be ordered to thoroughly check the condition.
  2. Electroencephalogram – This device measures and monitors brain waves or electrical activity of the brain.
  3. Cognitive testing – The doctor, in case, a neurologist could perform several tests to determine the cognitive skills. These tests include concentration, memory or ability to recall information. You might be suggested to stay in the hospital overnight for close observation.

Treatment of concussion

The treatment of concussion will depend on the severity of the symptoms. In mild cases, rest is the best way to treat a concussion. In other cases such as bleeding or swelling in the brain may demand surgery or other medical procedures. However, most cases of concussions are not serious enough to require surgery.

If you are facing headaches, the doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Other recommendations of the doctor include:

  • Avoid strenuous activities
  • Limit mental activities such as watching TV, playing video games, reading, etc.
  • Avoid driving a vehicle
  • Shortening of school or workdays

If the symptoms still persist, reevaluation by a neurologist is highly recommended to rule out any serious medical problem. The condition may induce some long terms effects such as post-concussion syndrome, second impact syndrome and post-traumatic vertigo.

Though concussion is tough to prevent, wearing protective equipment and driving smart are some of the steps you can take to avoid getting head injury.

Sources

1. Traumatic Brain Injury (2017, March 15). familydoctor read more
2. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Condition Information(2016, January 12). nichd read more 
3. Concussion Signs and Symptoms(2015, February 16). CDC read more