Signs of a Concussion and What To Do
If, after hitting your head, you’re experiencing other symptoms such as dizziness, headache, blurry vision, or confusion, you might have a concussion. Taking a hit or blow to your head can be a jarring experience. If the pain from the hit is localized to just the area of impact, then taking over-the-counter painkillers (Tylenol or Ibuprofen) might suffice.
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What should I do if I Hit My Head?
Taking a blow to your head may result in serious head injuries which require immediate medical attention. It is important to follow a thorough first aid check after hitting your head.
See below the things to keep in mind when helping yourself or a loved one.
|If you experience any of the following, get immediate medical help.|
|Become very sleepy|
|Behave abnormally, or have trouble speaking/breathing|
|Experience severe head or neck stiffness|
|Have a seizure|
|Have pupils of unequal sizes|
|Lack of mobility in arm(s) or leg(s)|
|Loss of consciousness|
|If none of the above are occurring, follow the steps below:|
|Inspect the head for minor bleeding or cuts|
|Use ice packs to relieve any swollen areas|
|Take OTC painkillers if experiencing pain|
|Limit screen time to avoid straining the eyes|
|Avoid the activities below for quicker healing|
|Don’t consume alcohol|
|Don’t engage in physically demanding activities or sports|
|Don’t move your head or neck too quickly|
|Don’t wash your head in case of minor wounds|
What is a Concussion
A concussion is a violent jarring or shaking that results in a disturbance of brain functioning. It may result when the head hits an object. It is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) often caused by an impact on the head which makes it move rapidly back and forth.
Our brains are made up of soft tissue, which has the consistency of gelatin. Inside the skull, the brain is protected from external force or impact by a cushioning of spinal fluid. Upon experiencing a violent blow or bump to the head, the impact can cause the brain to slide back and forth forcefully against the inner walls of the skull. This sudden movement of the brain can cause bruising inside the head, damaging the blood vessels and nerves.
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting a concussion.
- Falling, particularly for kids and older adults
- Practicing high-risk or contact sports (such as football, soccer, boxing, rugby, or hockey)
- Not using safety equipment when engaging in high-impact activities
- Experiencing a car, motorcycle, or bicycle collision
- Being a victim of physical abuse
- Serving as a soldier in combat
- History of concussion(s)
Symptoms of a Concussion
Getting hit on the head often leads to more than one symptom relating to head trauma. Symptoms from a concussion can take days, weeks, or a few months to fully go away. Take a look at the symptoms below. If you are experiencing all or any of them, your injury might need more medical help.
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What if I have these Symptoms
People with a potential concussion must be seen by a physician. Make sure to get a loved one to help you to a nearby hospital or urgent care. If your symptoms are manageable, you may also wait to get an appointment with your primary care physician. Upon reaching the medical facility, the physician might suggest some tests for your brain including a CT scan or an MRI.
You might also be asked to take another category of tests called “Neuropsychological” or “Neurocognitive” tests. These tests help the medical professional determine if there are any neurological impacts from the concussion. They test the patient’s ability to read, speak, problem solve, and think coherently.
Make sure to inform your physician of any over-the-counter medication you might be taking. It is also important to tell your physician about other “remedies”, alcohol consumption, or drug use. It is especially important to bring to attention any blood-thinning medication you might be taking. Blood thinners increase your chances of bleeding and other complications internally. Some common blood thinners include aspirin and Coumadin.
How to Prevent a Concussion
Managing the aftermath of a concussion can be stressful as well as expensive. It is always better to practice safety precautions to reduce the risk of getting injured. This can be especially important for kids, older adults, those who have a history of concussions or take blood-thinning medication.
- Use safety equipment during activities that may be high-impact
- Follow the recommended passenger safety measures in vehicles (seat belts and/or helmets)
- Wear protective headgear, padding, mouth, and eye guard when playing high-contact sports
- Wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of a concussion by 85 percent
- Avoid direct physical force to your head
- Reduce clutter from the floor to prevent falling
- Exercise regularly to get stronger calves, glutes, and hamstrings to increase balance
- Install window guards and stairway blocks if you have children at home
- Avoid the use of stairs for older adults
Recovery and Treatment
It is found that approximately 80 percent of concussions heal within an average span of 10 days (ranging from 7 to 14 days). If proper care is not observed, it may take up to weeks until full recovery is reached. It is important to allow your body the time to heal and recover from internal injuries.
To make your recovery process quicker, you should remember to reduce your screen time and avoid straining your eye muscles. Eye strain can make the concussion symptoms worse, especially headaches. Regularly drinking water to stay hydrated allows your body to heal quicker.
Additionally, you can add more proteins and omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. A study conducted in 2015 established that the intake of proteins helps improve cognitive functioning which is often compromised due to concussions. A few great sources of protein include meat, beans, tofu, nuts, and fish. Common sources of omega-3 acids that can also help heal your body are salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, and soy.
Concussions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Find below a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about head injuries and concussions.
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What does caffeine do to a concussion?
Consuming caffeine on a normal day helps us feel energetic and improves our mood. However, when our body is recovering from an injury in an organ as sensitive as the brain, it is in need of healthy nutritious food to sustain the damage. Consuming caffeine during this phase can deplete the resources your body has and cause our bodies to dehydrate which may delay recovery.
How can I treat a concussion at home?
In addition to medical attention, make sure to take elongated periods of rest, especially resting your head and neck by refraining from fast movement. If experiencing pain, use a cold and moist cloth or a cold pack on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes. Remember to get good sleep, and eat a balanced diet for quicker recovery.
Should I go to a hospital for a concussion?
Generally, for injuries to the head, it is always recommended to seek medical attention. Especially in the case of a concussion, which is an injury with the chances of internal bleeding, it is suggested that you get it checked out by a doctor. If you are experiencing loss of consciousness, seizures, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, numbness in arms/legs, or blurry vision, call 911 immediately.
At the end of the day, all head injuries, including concussions, affect each individual differently. Some might recover quicker with barely any symptoms, while others need more thorough medical attention and increased recovery time. Keeping that in mind, always make sure to consult an expert if you experience a hit or blow to your head.
If you’re not sure where to get immediate medical help, the Mira care navigation team helps members find affordable options in their area. A Mira membership is as low as $45 per month and gives exclusive access to low-cost urgent care visits, affordable lab testing, and discounted prescriptions. Sign up and start saving on healthcare today.
Girisha is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University, pursuing a Master's in Public Health. She is excited to combine her passion for Public Health and writing with the hopes of delivering quality health information, one article at a time!