Signs of a Concussion (and When You Should Head to the Hospital)

Brain lobes in different colors

Brain lobes in different colors | iStock.com/alex-mit

Hit your head recently? Whether it was just a slight fall or you took a serious whack to your noggin, it’s wise to understand how concussions to work. Mayo Clinic explains a concussion is a brain injury typically caused by a blow to the head, though they can also occur if your head or upper body is violently shaken. Those who play contact sports should be particularly aware of their risk.

Signs of a concussion

It’s important to note that not all signs of a concussion appear immediately. While many symptoms will occur right when the injury occurs, some take hours, days or weeks to develop, says Healthline.

If you do have a concussive brain injury, Mayo Clinic says it’s particularly common to experience headaches, confusion, and amnesia surrounding how you got injured in the first place. You may also feel pressure in your head or a dizzying feeling that leads to nausea and vomiting. Sensitivity to lights and noises, trouble balancing, and blurred vision are also signs that something’s off.

As for symptoms that are typically more delayed, you may notice your concentration and memory are off for hours or days following your injury. You may also have disturbances in your sleep, slight personality changes, depression, fatigue, and disorders of taste or smell.

How to recover

The most important rule for recovering from a concussion on your own is rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests limiting your physical and thinking activity as to not put excess strain on your brain while it’s healing. When you start to feel better, incorporate light activity back into your day-to-day living — but again, remember to take it easy.

You should also try to get as much sleep as possible. Stay away from screens and loud music before bed, too. Try your best to adjust to a normal daily schedule and avoid napping, too.

When you’re able to go about your daily life without any lingering symptoms, then you should be fine to carry on. But remember — some symptoms can take months to fully disappear.

Should you go to the hospital?

It can be difficult to tell when a brain injury is serious or minor — therefore, when in doubt, seek medical attention. Brainline explains most people who have concussions may have a headache for a few days and recover completely on their own, but around 5% may have bleeding in the brain or a blood clot without knowing it, which can be life-threatening.

As for more concrete guidelines on when you should head to the hospital, it’s well-advised to seek medical attention if you lost consciousness, can’t remember the traumatic event clearly, are vomiting, or have had a seizure following the trauma.

Diagnosing a concussion can be complicated, as there’s no one single way to go about it. Typically, your symptoms should be enough for a medical professional to tell you what’s going on, but they may also order some tests. A basic neurological test can check your motor and sensory skills, and if brain swelling or bleeding is suspected, your doctor may recommend a CT scan.

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