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Concussion

A concussion is a mild brain injury. A concussion is when a person gets a hit to the head, but they do not go unconscious, do not have a seizure or a loss of memory for over 10 minutes. The person can have a mild headache, be tired, have nausea and throw up a couple of times.

A concussion causes an injury to the brain, but the injury is temporary. If there is any unconsciousness or memory loss for more than 10 minutes, a doctor's examination is needed. A doctor's examination is also needed for elderlies, people who use medication for blood clotting and people who have a tendency for a bleeding diathesis.

It is important not to be alone after a concussion, also the following night should not be spent alone.

A child's concussion

A child has had a concussion if they have hit their head, but have not gone unconscious and their memory works. The child can be tired, pale, nauseous and throw up after the concussion.

If the child experiences unconsciousness, intense headaches, intense throwing up or is confused after the hit, it is necessary to go to the doctor immediately. The child should be woken up a couple of times the following night to check, that their movements and senses work properly.

Estimating a concussion at home

The most important thing is to find out if the person has been unconscious after the hit. The memory loss gap can be determined by asking the person if they remember the sequence of events and telling them in the correct order. Do they for example remember how they fell and hit their head, where they woke up or how they came home after a fall outside.

Symptoms of a concussion

It is usual to experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, tiredness and temporary and mild confusion after a concussion. The symptoms usually ease in a couple of hours. If the symptoms are strong, the headache gets worse, general well-being is poor, there is trouble with walking or balancing or the person is very confused and sleepy a visit to the doctor is immediately needed. For example, Mehiläinen's general practitioners on call will help without a reserved appointment if the problem is urgent.

A visit to the doctor is also needed if there is numbness or muscle weakness in the arms or legs, the person sees double or some other issues with sight or there is difficulty to speak and understand speech. These kind of symptoms and worsening symptoms refer to something other than a normal concussion.

Treating a concussion

After a concussion it is important to rest and avoid intense tension and stress as well as avoiding using alcohol for a couple of days. Painkillers, that are available without prescriptions can taken for the ache.

After a concussion it is important not to be alone and the person who got a concussion needs to be woken up a couple of times during the following night by someone. Going to sleep alone after concussion and only putting an alarm to wake up during the night should not be done. This is, because if the symptoms get worse during the night, it is possible, that the person won't wake up to the alarm and won't be able to get help.

Examining a concussion

When examining the patient, the doctor will ask precise questions about what has happened and make sure, that patient has an orientation and sense of time, place and themselves. The doctor will also examine the function of the cranial nerves, check coordination, tendon reflexes and that strength has maintained in the arms and legs.

When a patient has a had a hit to the head, the doctor will also check, that the bones of the skull are strong, there is no bleeding in the ear canals and that there are no bruises under the eyes or behind the ears. These signs can point to a skull fracture. Additionally, the doctor will check if the patient has any other injuries. A CT scan and an imaging examination will be done if they are needed.

Post symptoms of a concussion

The headaches, nausea and other symptoms caused by a concussion can last for a couple of days. If there are still symptoms after two weeks or the symptoms come back, it is necessary to go the doctor.

Recovering from a concussion

Usually recovering from a concussion takes a few days. Usually one can go back to work in 1 to 3 days. If there have been unconsciousness or memory loss of more than 10 minutes with the concussion the recovery can take a couple of weeks.

Monitoring the concussion at home

The situation can be safely monitored at home if the symptoms slowly ease and disappear. A doctor's evaluation is always needed for elderly people, people who use medication for blood clotting and people who have a tendency for a bleeding diathesis. It is important to remember, that one cannot be alone after a concussion, especially during the following night.

Text written by: Acute medicine specialist and general practitioner Laura Patrikainen.