MONDAY, May 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who suffer a
concussion can have lingering effects long after the physical
symptoms fade away, U.S. researchers report.
In a study from the emergency medicine division at Boston
Children's Hospital, doctors found that, while headache, dizziness
and blurry vision can appear right after a concussion, emotional
and mental symptoms, such as irritability and frustration, show up
much later and stay longer.
"Patients and their families should expect the physical symptoms that they experience after a head injury to get better over the next few weeks, but that emotional symptoms may come on later, even as the physical symptoms subside," said lead researcher Dr. Matthew Eisenberg.
"Only by knowing what symptoms can be expected after a concussion can we help reassure patients and families that what they experience is normal, know when to seek additional help, and make sure that children are taking appropriate precautions in regard to school and sports to achieve a full recovery," Eisenberg added.
For the study, published online May 12 and in the June print
Pediatrics, Eisenberg's team used questionnaires to keep
track of 235 children and young adults, aged 11 to 22, who suffered
a concussion and went to a pediatric emergency department.
The patients were followed for three months after their injury,
or until all their symptoms were gone. During that time they were
asked about symptoms, sports activity, and school and athletic
The most common physical symptoms were headache, dizziness and
fatigue, which tended to start right after the injury and got
better over time. Most also had mental symptoms, such as difficulty
concentrating and taking longer to think, the researchers
While most children recovered within two weeks after the injury,
25 percent still had headache a month after their injury, the
In addition, more than 20 percent suffered from fatigue, and
nearly 20 percent reported taking longer to think for a month after
For many, emotional symptoms -- such as frustration and
irritability -- were not as common right after the injury, but
developed later, the study authors noted.
Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and
neurorehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital, said, "It takes
longer than people think to fully recover from a concussion. My
experience is that kids who still have symptoms two weeks after a
concussion are going to have a very hard time, and it's going to be
a struggle to get them to the point where they have no
In addition to physical and mental rest, Kuluz believes in
treating the symptoms. He prescribes ibuprofen and other
medications to relieve headache, and melatonin and other drugs to
help patients sleep.
Kuluz also recommends physical therapy to help children recover.
Therapy includes working on balance and helping with any vision
problems. "Therapy also helps you find your threshold for exertion.
Many of my kids find that very helpful," he said.
He also recommends keeping children out of school for a couple
of days after the injury and then gradually letting them get back
to a normal routine.
"Keeping a child out of school for too long will have a negative effect on their mental health. They will become anxious, they'll become irritable, because they worry about falling behind," he said. "But if they go back too soon without teachers being aware of their condition, they can fail, and it happens a lot."
Kuluz tries to get kids back to school for half a day or as much
as they can tolerate until they get better. Children should not
start sports again until all symptoms have disappeared and then
only gradually, he added.
If a child still has symptoms two or three days after a
concussion, Kuluz recommends seeing a doctor who is experienced in
dealing with concussions or going to a concussion clinic.
For more on
concussion, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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