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How to Identify and Treat Concussions

Schools are ripe with opportunities for children to get a concussion, such as in gym class, on the playground, during after-school activities or even in the classroom. And of course, it’s also possible to get a concussion from a multitude of other places outside of school such as at home or in a car crash. But no matter where the concussion occurs, school nurses should keep an eye out for the signs of a concussion in order to help prevent further injury.

According to the CDC, concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce or twist within the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. Clearly, this is a very serious issue and if not recognized and treated properly it can have lasting effects.

Symptoms of a Concussion

It can be hard to immediately tell if a student has a concussion. Symptoms sometimes occur well after the injury itself. However, following head trauma, there are a few physical and cognitive signs that can let you know if a concussion is likely. Note that some of the following symptoms may develop immediately, while others may become apparent over the course of days or weeks. (Source)

Physical Symptoms:

  • Blacking out, even if briefly
  • Seeing “stars” or lights in front of the eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Lack of motor coordination or difficulty balancing
  • Tinnitus
  • Uneven pupil sizes
  • Unusually large pupils
  • Bleeding at the scalp
  • Bleeding under the scalp, creating a large lump under the skin

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Feeling or appearing dazed
  • Memory problems
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Trouble focusing
  • Post-traumatic amnesia
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Mood changes
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability

How to Treat a Concussion

If you believe that a student has a concussion, follow the four steps below to get him or her proper care immediately.

  1. Immobilize the head while you wait for medical help.
  2. Apply ice to reduce the swelling for approximately 20-30 minutes every two to four hours.
  3. Take over-the-counter pain medication (avoid Aspirin or Ibuprofen which can increase bleeding). Headaches are a very common result of concussions.
  4. Monitor the student’s cognitive function and document any changes (see above cognitive symptoms).

To learn more about treating concussions, click here.

MacGill sells a variety of products to help with concussion treatment like cervical collars, OTC medication, ice packs and a concussion educational poster. If you have any questions about these products, please contact us.

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